Scientists from Zhejiang University found that eating whole eggs is linked to death risks from heart disease and cancer.
One egg has only 75 calories but 7 grams of high-quality protein, 5 grams of fat, and 1.6 grams of saturated fat, along with iron, vitamins, minerals, and carotenoids.
One large egg also has about 186 mg of cholesterol — all of which is found in the yolk.
Health experts now suggest people should eat as little dietary cholesterol as possible, aiming to keep intake under 300 milligrams (mg) a day.
Egg whites contain no cholesterol but still contain protein. People can also use cholesterol-free egg substitutes, which are made with egg whites.
Whether intake of egg and cholesterol can harm heart health and longevity is highly debated.
In the current study, researchers aimed to examine the links between egg and cholesterol intake with death risk, and heart disease in a group of US people.
They tested more than 500,000 people (aged 50–71 years), who were recruited from 6 states and 2 additional cities in the US between 1995 and 1996 and followed up until the end of 2011.
Their intakes of whole eggs, egg whites/substitutes, and cholesterol were assessed by a food frequency questionnaire.
During the 16 years of follow-up, there were 129,328 deaths, including 38,747 deaths from heart disease.
The team found whole egg and cholesterol intakes were both linked to all-cause death, heart disease death, and cancer death.
In addition, each intake of an additional 300 mg of dietary cholesterol per day was linked to 19%, 16%, and 24% higher all-cause death, heart disease death, and cancer death, respectively.
The team estimated that cholesterol intake contributed to 63.2%, 62.3%, and 49.6% of all-cause death, heart disease death, and cancer death associated with eating whole eggs, respectively.
On the other hand, eating egg white/substitute was linked to a lower death risk and death from stroke, cancer, respiratory disease, and Alzheimer’s disease compared with people who did not eat egg white/substitute.
The team estimated that replacing half a whole egg with equivalent amounts of egg whites/substitutes, poultry, fish, dairy products, or nuts/legumes was related to death risk, heart disease, cancer, and respiratory disease.
Based on the findings, the researchers concluded that intake of eggs and cholesterol are linked to higher death risk, heart disease, and cancer risk.
The increased death linked to egg consumption was largely influenced by cholesterol intake from egg yolks.
These findings suggest limiting cholesterol intake and replacing whole eggs with egg whites/substitutes or other alternative protein sources for boosting heart health and longevity.
The research is published in PLOS MEDICINE and was conducted by Pan Zhuang et al.
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