A new study in the online journal entitled Risk Analysis reports that eating one egg a day accounts for less than 1 percent of the risk of heart disease, the leading killer of American men and women. This, in my opinion, helps deflate the myth that all eggs are always bad for you and can never be included in a heart-healthy meal plan.
The researchers cited lifestyle factors, such as a poor diet, smoking, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle as chief contributors (30 to 40 percent) of someone's heart disease risk, with men having higher risks than women. Risk factors that could be potentially treated, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, accounted for a whopping 60 to 70 percent of the risk. In this light, a single egg doesn't seem so big a threat.
Eggs have gotten a lot of bad press of late. There seems to be a constant drumbeat, perhaps in the media, about eggs being off-limits if you want to keep your heart healthy. (Just today, I was seeing a patient of mine with young children and, coincidentally, one of his daughters asked me, "Are eggs bad for you?")
Instead of worrying about an egg a day, I think we should turn our attention to the potential risks of stress (especially chronic stress), physical inactivity, and poor overall diet choices (like diets high in junk foods and low in fruits and vegetables).
This research, which was (full disclosure) funded by the Egg Nutrition Center, serves to further substantiate the premise that healthy adults really can eat (whole) eggs without upping their heart disease risk significantly. And what's more, the authors noted that their analysis did not adjust for all the health-promoting benefits of eggs, which might decrease some heart disease risk.
What is it about eggs that could actually help your heart?
However, if, for whatever reason, you want to keep the fat and cholesterol content in your diet low, eat the egg whites and skip the yolk, since all the protein (and virtually none of the fat) is in the whites. There are even cartons of pure egg whites in the grocery store that make it easy. Or you could separate the eggs at home by discarding the yolks, or at least a few of them. This study, however, seems to be suggesting that even the egg yolk isn't anywhere near the health risk people have perceived it to be for all these years. They're also a very affordable source of protein, a big plus in today's economy!
Bottom line: If you really like whole eggs, and your doctor or dietitian thinks they're fine for you, then go ahead and enjoy them, yolks and all!