Do you remember the days, back in the 20th century, when the advice was not to eat eggs because they were rich in cholesterol?

Back then, the relationship between cholesterol and heart disease was first emerging. The theory in those days was that the more cholesterol there was in your diet, the higher the cholesterol level would rise in your blood; and the higher that went, the more likely you were to have a heart attack.

This idea seems to have stuck. Even though our understanding of heart disease has moved on, you still sometimes see recommendations that suggest keeping the amount of cholesterol you consume to less than, say, 300 mg per day. (A large egg contains about 210 mg, a significant proportion of that target.)

These days, we know far more about how the body handles the cholesterol we eat, and fats in general. In particular, we know that the cholesterol we eat has only a small effect on the cholesterol level in the blood. High cholesterol levels are due to other causes.

Indeed, a recent study* has again confirmed that eating an egg a day does not lead to heart disease or stroke. This study analysed the results of 17 earlier studies on heart disease or stroke, which together involved more than 7 million people. The results showed that people who ate one egg a day were no more likely to die of heart disease or stroke than those who didn’t. (Those with an underlying disorder of fat metabolism are an exception, and it has been suggested that the result might not apply to people with diabetes.)

With Easter coming soon, and eggs in people’s minds, this is timely reassurance.  Eggs are a readily available, inexpensive, low-calorie food. They contain vitamins, minerals, proteins and unsaturated fats; and there is even some evidence that eating eggs increases levels of beneficial HDL-cholesterol in those on low carbohydrate diets.

We can all enjoy an egg for Easter.

 

*Link to the study: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e8539

 

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