WXXI AM News

Eggs associated with early death – but should we stop eating them? Maybe not.

Apr 16, 2019

Eating eggs is linked to a risk of developing cardiovascular disease and dying early, according to a study published last month in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Free-range eggs from Pennypack Farm in Pennsylvania.
Credit Christopher Paquette / Flickr

But dietitians and health researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center say what seems like an obvious solution – eating fewer eggs – may not be an effective way to respond to the study.

“That ignores the emotional component to eating,” said Jill Chodak, a clinical dietician at URMC's Center for Community Health and Prevention. “Most people can’t just cut out a food they’re attached to. That’s not sustainable.”

The study, which tracked almost 30,000 people over an average of 17.5 years, found that “each additional half an egg consumed per day was significantly associated with higher risk” of developing cardiovascular disease. The results do not mean eating eggs causes cardiovascular disease, but, researchers said, the study found a strong correlation.

It’s a relationship called the “dose-response”: Eating more eggs (increasing the dose) seems to increase the negative health effects.

“Even among those who consumed a relatively healthy diet, consuming more eggs was still related to higher risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality,” Victor Zhong, one of the authors of the study, said in an email.

“This is a very robust, very serious study,” Chodak said. Still, “everyone – every body – responds differently. There’s no one-size-fits-all result.”

And cutting out eggs entirely might not actually have any positive health results, Chodak said. “It all depends what you replace it with. A lot of what we eat with eggs, like bacon or ham, isn’t very good for us either.”

Chodak acknowledged that the science around eggs and their health value has swung between two extremes for decades, making it difficult for consumers to understand and trust the research.

From 2010-2015, the U.S. government offered strict guidance for the maximum amount of cholesterol a person should consume in a day. A single egg contains more than half that amount. But in 2015, the government removed that guidance, focusing instead on limiting saturated fat.

Chodak said those changes can leave her patients confused. But she said the overall message of the study is clear: Increasing cholesterol consumption “can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.”