An egg a day may not raise heart-disease risk
April 20, 1999
From Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen
(CNN) -- Nearly 30 years ago, health authorities warned Americans against eating eggs. The concern was cholesterol levels in the national diet. As a result, egg consumption dropped. But now, the results of a major study published in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) suggest that an egg or two a day won't do most people any harm.
The Harvard University study flies in the face of conventional wisdom on eggs. U.S. health authorities advise Americans to eat no more than three or four eggs a week. The theory has been that eggs, which are high in cholesterol, could increase cholesterol in the blood and lead to heart attacks.
But the study of nearly 120,000 people found that those who consumed seven to 14 eggs a week had the same rate of cardiovascular disease as those whose consumption, on average, didn't include even one egg per week.
"Eggs will raise blood levels of cholesterol, but the increase is actually very small and appears to be compensated for by other nutrients, beneficial nutrients, that are present in eggs," says Dr. Meir Stampfer of Harvard University.
Stampfer says saturated fat in food is the problem, not cholesterol. The fat is found in meat and dairy products, and it raises cholesterol levels in a person's blood.
"One shouldn't take the results of this study as carte blanche to go out and eat as many eggs as you want," Stampfer says. "I think egg intake should be limited, but people shouldn't have this fear that one or two eggs a day is going to increase their risk of heart disease. It's not."
Stampfer does warn that diabetics or people who already have high cholesterol or heart disease should probably eat fewer eggs.
Dr. Virgil Brown, former president of the American Heart Association, says he remains concerned about eggs, even for healthy people. He says eggs can raise cholesterol significantly in someone who already eats a lot of other animal fats.
Brown says the number of eggs you can eat safely really depends on what else you eat.
"I tend to eat more meat," he says, using himself as an example, "and I eliminate eggs from my diet and I eliminate dairy fat from my diet."
Many health authorities seem to agree with Brown. The American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health say they plan to stick to their recommendations that people eat only three or four eggs a week.
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Journal of the American Medical Association
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