Cholesterol in Eggs and Heart Health

by Sandy Todd Webster on May 09, 2016

Food for Thought

If you love eggs but have shunned them because of concerns about dietary cholesterol, it’s time to reassess and get cracking.

A 2016 study from the University of Eastern Finland shows that a relatively high intake of dietary cholesterol, or eating one egg every day, is not associated with an elevated risk of incident coronary artery disease (CAD). What’s more, the study findings, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2016; 103 [3], 895–901), reported no association for subjects with the APOE4 phenotype, which negatively impacts cholesterol metabolism.

In the majority of the population, dietary cholesterol affects serum cholesterol levels only a little, and few studies have linked the intake of dietary cholesterol to an elevated risk of cardiovascular diseases. Globally, many nutrition recommendations no longer set limitations on the intake of dietary cholesterol. However, in carriers of the apolipoprotein E type 4 allele—which significantly impacts cholesterol metabolism—the effect of dietary cholesterol on serum cholesterol levels is greater. In Finland, the prevalence of the APOE4 allele, which is hereditary, is exceptionally high and approximately one-third of the population are carriers.

The dietary habits of 1,032 men aged 42–60 with no baseline diagnosis of any cardiovascular disease were assessed at the onset the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study in 1984–1989 at the University of Eastern Finland. During a follow-up period of nearly 21 years, 230 men had a myocardial infarction; 32.5% of the study participants were carriers of APOE4.

The study found that a high intake of dietary cholesterol was not associated with increased risk of CAD—not in the entire study population nor in those with the APOE4 phenotype. Moreover, consumption of eggs, a significant source of dietary cholesterol, was not associated with increased risk of CAD. The study did not establish a link between dietary cholesterol or eating eggs with thickening of the common carotid artery walls, either.

The findings suggest that a high-cholesterol diet or frequent consumption of eggs does not increase the risk of CAD even in those who are genetically predisposed to a greater effect of dietary cholesterol on serum cholesterol levels. In the highest control group, study participants had an average daily dietary cholesterol intake of 520 milligrams and consumed an average of one egg per day, which means the results cannot be generalized beyond these levels.

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About the Author

Sandy Todd Webster

Sandy Todd Webster IDEA Author/Presenter

Sandy Todd Webster is Editor in Chief of IDEA's publications, including the award-winning IDEA FITNESS JOURNAL and IDEA FOOD & NUTRITION TIPS, the industry's leading resources for fitness, wellness and nutrition professionals worldwide. Sandy joined IDEA in 2001 as executive editor of IDEA PERSONAL TRAINER and IDEA FITNESS MANAGER magazines and was promoted to lead the editorial team in 2003. More than 20 years in magazine publishing, marketing communications and creative services have shaped her straightforward approach to multi-channel communication. Early experience in Los Angeles as a sports writer/reporter, and then enriching years as a managing editor in allied health care publishing have pulled her across a spectrum of stimulating subject matter. Fitness, health and nutrition reside at the perfect center of this content continuum, she feels. A Chicago native, Sandy grew up fully engaged in various competitive sports. Her drive and dedication as an athlete translate to a disciplined work ethic and unwavering approach to challenge in her career. Shortly after graduating journalism school from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, she was recruited to L.A. for her first post in magazine publishing. After two decades of working on magazines--and now in the throes of applying the unbelieveable multi-media content delivery options available in the magazine 2.0 world--she is still "completely in love" with the creative process it takes to deliver meaningful, inspirational content to end users. She is an accomplished home cook and gardner who would love to combine those skills and passions with her health and fitness background to continue educating readers about a well-balanced, healthy lifestyle.