Eggs of one sort or another are a firm favorite that show up in a lot of people’s breakfasts, but how many times have you heard people tell you that eating eggs will raise your cholesterol?
Science hasn’t completely settled the debate yet, but a new contribution to the topic has just been published in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association.
For this piece, researchers from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell and Northwestern University looked back over large studies that recorded the diets, lifestyles, and cardiovascular diseases of 29,615 people. These people had an average age of 51.6 years and they were followed for an average of 17.5 Years.
When the researchers separated out daily cholesterol consumption, daily egg consumption, cardiovascular events, and deaths from the rest of the data, they found some interesting points:
The first 300 mg (milligrams) of cholesterol consumed per day has no measurable harmful effects on health.
Beyond the first 300 mg of daily cholesterol, every additional 300 mg increases our risk of a cardiovascular event like stroke or heart attack by 17 percent and our chance of death by 18 percent.
Beyond the first 300 mg of daily cholesterol, each half an egg increases our risk of a cardiovascular event by six percent and our risk of death by eight percent.
To unpick all of that, it doesn’t mean that you have to avoid eggs. In fact, it shows that eggs are fine in moderation, but how much is that exactly?
One egg, or one egg yolk to be more precise, contains 200 mg of cholesterol, which is about the same amount as you’ll find in a large steak.
This means that if you eat a large steak and an egg every day, together with the milk in your tea or coffee, you will be over the 300 mg safe limit.
But if you eat three eggs and three large steaks per week, and spread them out, your cholesterol intake will be below it.
Past research has actually shown that daily cholesterol intake doesn’t raise our cholesterol to harmful levels, which is why the American and British governments don’t recommend a daily cholesterol limit.
The reason why eggs (and meats for that matter) become unhealthy is probably because they have to be cooked to improve flavor and reduce the risk of Salmonella.
But when you heat cholesterol, its chemical composition changes in a process called oxidation. It is this oxidized cholesterol that clogs your arteries, not uncooked cholesterol.
So, don’t stop eating eggs just yet. They contain calcium, fiber, iron, potassium, zinc, selenium, B vitamins, vitamin A and other healthy nutrients, so if you keep your consumption under control, your favorite breakfast food can still be a heart-healthy addition to your day.