Contrary to former fears about the cholesterol in eggs and egg yolks, a new study’s results suggest that eggs could actually help protect your heart. Researchers in China discovered that those who ate at least one egg per day had a lower risk of heart disease and stroke than those who avoided eggs.
The researchers used the previously recorded data of more than a half a million Chinese adults from 10 different locations. They selected 461,213 participants, all of whom were free of relevant health conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. These individuals were then followed for nearly nine years and surveyed on their egg-eating habits.
Of the participants, 13.1 percent claimed to eat eggs every day. Just 9.1 percent of participants avoided eggs almost entirely. Overall, those who consumed eggs daily in any quantity exhibited a lower heart disease risk.
Daily egg consumers — defined as those who consumed slightly less than one egg per day on average — had a 26 percent lower risk of hemorrhagic stroke, a 28 percent lower risk of hemorrhagic stroke death, and an 18 percent lower risk of heart-disease related death as compared to those who ate fewer eggs.
So what quantity of eggs is best to eat each day? Historically, USDA dietary recommendations have suggested that two eggs is the limit, so far as cholesterol is concerned. But now, conclusions on cholesterol and from food and your body’s cholesterol levels are hazy.
Egg yolks contain saturated fat — which has historically been thought to raise cholesterol, according to the American Heart Association. However, eggs contain a certain type of cholesterol, called HDL cholesterol, which could help prevent artery buildup and clogging.
This research did not compare groups who exceeded the average of up to one egg per day — so it’s unclear how many eggs you would have to eat to overdo it. Additionally, this study was observational, meaning that it does not provide sufficient evidence to say the eggs caused the lower heart disease risk. The study also did not distinguish between different types of preparation; it's unclear whether participants ate their eggs fried, hard-boiled, or even poached.
“Our findings contribute scientific evidence to the dietary guidelines with regard to egg consumption for the healthy Chinese adult,” the researchers said. Current Chinese dietary recommendations advise residents to eat an average of 40 to 50 grams of egg per day (again, slightly less than one egg) and not to bother discarding the yolk. Though egg yolks are cholesterol-heavy, they could actually be good for your overall cholesterol count.