Study: Eating Eggs May Not Raise Cholesterol Levels After All – Prevention Magazine

4 minutes, 12 seconds Read
  • New research shows that eggs may not be as bad for cholesterol as previously thought.
  • Researchers found that eating up to 12 eggs a week did not raise cholesterol levels.
  • Nutrition experts explain the findings.

Scrambled, fried, sunny side up, poached, or hard boiled, eggs are one of the most versatile and delicious ways to get your daily protein. But when it comes to monitoring your cholesterol levels, they’ve gotten a bad rep over the years. New research shows that your favorite omelette may not actually be bad for your cholesterol at all.

A study to be presented on April 6 at the American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Session looked into the relationship between eggs and cholesterol levels. Researchers conducted a trial that involved 140 people with heart disease or at high risk for it, who were randomly assigned to eat either a dozen or more fortified eggs a week, or consume less than two.

After following these participants for four months, researchers found that people who ate 12 fortified eggs per week had similar cholesterol levels compared to those who ate fewer than two eggs of any kind per week.

Researchers also didn’t see any adverse effects on cardiovascular health in the people who ate eggs every day, and even noticed signals of potential benefits compared to the non-egg diet followers, per the news release. These potential benefits included increases in HDL, aka “good,” cholesterol and reductions in LDL, aka “bad,” cholesterol in patients 65 years or older and those with type 2 diabetes in the fortified egg group compared with those eating fewer than two eggs.

Still, know that for people with sensitivities to dietary cholesterol, eating eggs may cause an increase in LDL cholesterol, which is the type of cholesterol associated with heart disease risk, says Melissa Prest, D.C.N., R.D.N., national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and member of the Prevention Medical Review Board. “One study reported that an egg a day had a minimal change in LDL cholesterol compared to eating three or more eggs a day.”

But overall, it’s more important to consider what the eggs are paired with on the plate, says Prest. “When eggs are paired with other high cholesterol high saturated fat foods, the impact on cholesterol is greater than if eggs are paired with some fruit and high fiber grain.” There has also been scientific evidence showing that cholesterol in food has less of an impact on blood cholesterol levels than saturated fat does, notes Keri Gans, M.S., R.D., registered dietitian and author of The Small Change Diet.

So is it OK to eat eggs every day? Per Gans, one to two eggs per day can be part of a healthy diet. Still, “what counts more is what you are eating alongside those eggs and throughout the rest of the day,” she notes. If high cholesterol is a concern for you, go with one whole egg or two egg whites per day, suggests Prest.

High cholesterol isn’t just affected by your egg intake on the whole. The biggest concern with heart health related to eggs is how your eggs are being prepared and what you’re serving with them, says Jackie Newgent, R.D.N., C.D.N., chef, nutritionist, and author of The Plant-Based Diabetes Cookbook. “Ideally think boiled, over-easy, or a simple egg scramble with veggies. It’s best to curb your intake of eggs prepared with lots of butter, as in eggs Benedict, or with plenty of heavy cream or cheese, as in some omelettes.” You’ll also want to pair eggs most of the time with vegetables, fruits, or whole grain foods rather than typical picks like buttered white toast, bacon, or sausage.

With that being said, any plant-forward diet pattern is great for reducing dietary cholesterol, says Prest. “The Mediterranean diet always wins the top pick for a healthy diet because it focuses on choosing high-fiber fruits, vegetables, plant proteins, and whole grains while moderating the number of servings of dairy and animal protein and limiting saturated fat, sweets, and alcohol.” Along with the Mediterranean, the DASH diet or any plant-based diet can be ideal for people who have a high total-cholesterol-to-HDL ratio, says Newgent.

The bottom line

One food never determines the outcome of one’s health, the entire diet is what counts, says Gans. The biggest takeaway from this study is that eggs are a great protein option and when eaten in moderation have minimal impact on your cholesterol, says Prest. And along with diet, lifestyle factors play a role in managing cholesterol, Prest adds, “so maintain a healthy weight or lose weight, engage in moderate physical activity, and stop smoking.”

Headshot of Madeleine Haase

Madeleine, Prevention’s assistant editor, has a history with health writing from her experience as an editorial assistant at WebMD, and from her personal research at university. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in biopsychology, cognition, and neuroscience—and she helps strategize for success across Prevention’s social media platforms. 

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