FOR years, people have believed that eggs are bad for your heart due to their high cholesterol.
However, scientists have finally cracked this myth through a 30 year study.
They found that eating the popular brekkie item won't raise the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) or stroke.
The US team, headed by a Harvard researcher, investigated the link between egg consumption and cases of CVD – including non-fatal heart attack, fatal coronary heart disease and stroke.
They measured the diets of 215,618 healthy men and women who averaged one to five eggs a week for 32 years.
They found no association between egg intake and risk of CVD – which can lead to heart attack or stroke.
Topic of debate
The findings, published in The British Medical Journal, did reveal that people who ate more than one egg a day had a higher risk, but also tended to eat more red meat and have a higher body mass index.
Study author Dr Jean-Philippe Drouin-Chartier said: "The association between egg consumption and cardiovascular disease risk has been a topic of intense debate during the past decade.
"Findings from previous studies on egg consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease have been inconclusive.
"The results from our cohort study and updated meta analysis show that moderate egg consumption (up to one egg per day) is not associated with cardiovascular disease risk overall.
"Results were similar for coronary heart disease and stroke."
The study participants included 83,349 female nurses aged 30 to 55, 90,214 female nurses aged 25 to 44 and 42,055 male health professionals aged 40 to 75.
All were free of CVD, type 2 diabetes and cancer at the start of the study.
When scientists checked in with the group a while later, there were 14,806 cases of CVD, including 9,010 cases of coronary heart disease and 5,903 cases of stroke.
Those with a higher egg intake had a higher BMI, were less likely to be treated with statins and ate more red meat.
No association was found between egg intake and risk of CVD after adjusting for age, lifestyle and dietary factors.
Eggs are being consumed for essential nutritional needs
Participants were more at risk of CVD when researchers replaced one whole egg a day with a serving of processed red meat (15 per cent), unprocessed meat (ten per cent) or full fat milk (11 per cent).
Foods such as fish, poultry, legumes, cheese and nuts in place of eggs were not linked to CVD risk.
The experts advised eggs are an affordable source of high-quality protein, iron and unsaturated fatty acids.
Professor Andrew Odegaard at the University of California said the results of the study are convincing, but "we should not put all our eggs in this observational basket for formal guidance on eating eggs".
He said: "If frequent egg consumption is occurring in the context of an overall dietary pattern known to be cardioprotective, or eggs are being consumed for essential nutritional needs, then it is probably nothing to worry about.
What is cardiovascular disease (CVD)?
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a general term for conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels.
It's usually associated with a build-up of fatty deposits inside the arteries (atherosclerosis) and an increased risk of blood clots.
It can also be associated with damage to arteries in organs such as the brain, heart, kidneys and eyes.
CVD is one of the main causes of death and disability in the UK, but it can often largely be prevented by leading a healthy lifestyle.
If you already have CVD, staying as healthy as possible can reduce the chances of it getting worse.
Ways you can reduce your CVD risk are outlined below.
1. Stop smoking – If you smoke, you should try to give up as soon as possible. Your GP can provide you with advice and support.
2. Have a balanced diet – A healthy, balanced diet is recommended for a healthy heart.
3. Exercise regularly – Adults are advised to do at least 150 minutes of moderate activity a week, such as cycling or brisk walking.
4. Maintain a healthy weight – If you're overweight or obese, a combination of regular exercise and a healthy diet can help you lose weight.
5. Cut down on alcohol – If you drink alcohol, try not to exceed the recommended limit of 14 alcohol units a week for men and women.
6. Medication – If you have a particularly high risk of developing CVD, your GP may recommend taking medication to reduce your risk. Medications that may be recommended include statins to lower blood cholesterol levels, low-dose aspirin to prevent blood clots, and tablets to reduce blood pressure.
"Single foods could have contextual relevance for health, but a complex and extensive body of nutrition and dietary research really does support the current focus on overall dietary patterns in recommendations and guidelines."
A previous study found that consuming just one egg a day slashes the risk of stroke by 12 per cent.
And results from an updated meta-analysis of 28 observational studies with more than 1.7 million participants further support the lack of an association between egg intake and CVD risk.
But evidence varied between studies conducted in the US, Europe and Asia.
There was no association between egg consumption and CVD risk among US and European studies.
But moderate egg consumption was associated with a slightly lower CVD risk in Asian populations.
Researchers said this may be due to eggs being included in a variety of Asian dishes while eggs tend to be eaten with red and processed meat in western populations.
CVD, a general term for conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels, is one of the main causes of death and disability in the UK.
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