The Claim: Eggs Are Bad for Your Heart
It's a Time magazine cover that's forever etched in my memory: a plate of eggs and bacon in the shape of a face, with the eggs serving as eyes and bacon a frowning mouth. The headline on the article said it all: "Hold the Eggs and Butter; Cholesterol is Proved Deadly, and Our Diets May Never Be the Same."
Since that warning in 1984 and others like it, researchers have conducted a number of long-term studies on eggs and heart disease, which collectively have followed several hundred thousand people. In general, the research has exonerated eggs: Eating up to six a week doesn't appear to be harmful for most healthy people.
So how can this be if egg yolks are high in cholesterol, and too much cholesterol is bad for us? Most of our cholesterol is made by the liver, which ramps up production when we eat saturated and trans fats. But cholesterol from food appears to have little impact on most people's cholesterol levels. And in people it does affect - so called hyper-responders - studies show there can be an increase in good (HDL) cholesterol along with the bad kind (LDL), which helps offset any increased risk. Further, dietary cholesterol also result in larger LDL particles, which are thought to pose less of a threat than smaller ones.
Eggs are relatively low in saturated fat, and they contain unsaturated fats, which may be beneficial. Plus they're a good source of protein and several vitamins and minerals. They can be a healthful and more filling alternative to high-calorie muffins, bagels, and sugary cereals.
Before this starts sounding like an appeal from the egg industry to eat omelets with abandon, I should mention a few caveats: Some research has linked daily egg consumption to an increased risk of heart failure and type 2 diabetes. And several studies have found an association between eggs and heart disease, as well as premature death, among people who have diabetes. Scientists aren't sure why, and these studies show correlation, not causation. But to be safe, it's probably a good idea for diabetics to go easy on eggs.
For most people, the biggest problem with eggs is what accompanies them. If your idea of an egg breakfast is IHOP's Big Steak Omelette or McDonald's Bacon, Egg & Cheese Biscuit, that frowning face from 1984 still applies. To update it, just add puffy cheeks and extra-salty tears.
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Reprinted from Coffee Is Good for You by Robert J. Davis, PhD, by arrangement with Perigee, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., Copyright (c) 2012 by Robert J. Davis, PhD, MPH