The latest American egg research will not be easier for those who cannot eat breakfast without them.
Adults who ate about 1½ eggs a day had a slightly higher risk of heart disease than those who did not eat eggs. The study showed that the more eggs, the greater the risk. The chances of dying soon were also increased.
Scientists say the culprit is cholesterol, found in yolks and other foods, including crustaceans, dairy products, and red meat. The study focused on eggs because it is one of the most commonly consumed high cholesterol foods. They can still be part of a healthy diet, but in smaller quantities than many Americans have used, scientists say.
US diet guidelines that lowered the limits on cholesterol have helped the egg make a comeback.
The study has its limitations and runs counter to recent research, but is likely to revive the long-term debate on eggs.
New results were published on Friday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Researchers at the Feinberg Medical School of Northwestern University and elsewhere have collected results from six previous studies and analyzed data on nearly 30,000 adults in the United States who reported daily food intake. The participants were on average monitored for about 17 years.
Researchers calculated that those who ate 300 milligrams of cholesterol per day – about 1½ of eggs – were 17% more prone to developing heart disease than those who did not eat eggs.
Scientists based their conclusions on what participants said they ate at the beginning of each study. They took into account high blood pressure, smoking, obesity and other features that could contribute to heart problems. Risks were found in eggs and cholesterol in general; for each cholesterol-rich diet no separate analysis was performed.
Johns Hopkins University Bruce Lee said nutrition studies are often weak because they rely on people who remember what they ate.
"We know that eating can be terrible," Lee said. The new study only offers observational data, but does not show that eggs and cholesterol caused heart disease and death, said Lee, who did not participate in the research.
Leading author Norrina Allen, an expert in preventive medicine, noted that the study lacks information about whether the participants ate hard-boiled, poached, fried or scrambled eggs that could affect health risks.
Some people think that "I can eat as many eggs as I want", but the results suggest that better access is better, she said.
Eggs are a major source of dietary cholesterol that once was heavily dependent on blood cholesterol levels and heart disease. Older studies suggesting that this association led to nutritional guidelines almost ten years ago that recommend consuming more than 300 milligrams of cholesterol per day; one egg contains about 186 milligrams.
More recent research has questioned this relationship and found that saturated fats contribute more to unhealthy blood cholesterol levels, which can lead to heart problems.
The latest US government nutrition guidelines, since 2015, have removed the strict daily cholesterol limit. Although it is still recommended to eat as little cholesterol as possible, the recommendation states that eggs can still be part of a healthy diet, as a good source of protein, along with lean meat, poultry, beans and nuts. Nutritionists say the new study is unlikely to change this advice.
Dr. Harvard University's Frank Hu noted that most previous studies have shown that eating several eggs a week is not associated with the risk of heart disease in generally healthy people.
"I don't think this study would change the general principles of healthy eating" that emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and beans, and reduce processed meat and sugar, Hu said. Eggs, breakfast for many, may be included, but other options should also be considered, "like wholegrain toast with walnut butter, fresh fruit and yogurt," Hu said.
Rosalind Coleman, Professor of Nutrition and Pediatrics at the University of North Carolina, offered broader advice.
"The main message for the public is not to choose one type of food as" bad "or" good ", but to evaluate the overall diet in terms of diversity and quantity.
"I'm sorry when it looks like a boring recommendation," she added, but for most people, the most important nutrition recommendation "should be to maintain a healthy weight, exercise and sleep enough".
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