WASHINGTON: The debate about whether eggs are good for you is centuries old: although it is a good source of protein, they may also contain harmful cholesterol.
Now a new study – published by the journal of the American Medical Association (Jama) on Friday – has arrived.
After analyzing 30,000 Americans from six separate studies, the researchers concluded that eating an extra half an egg per day increased the risk of cardiovascular disease (6%) and premature death (8%) during the study period.
That is relatively little, especially given that half an egg every day is twice as much as the average American eats.
Separately, the study found that an additional 300 mg of dietary cholesterol per day increases the risk of heart disease by 17% and premature death by 18%.
But 300 mg is twice the average daily amount eaten by Americans.
A large egg contains approximately 186 mg of cholesterol.
The new data suggest that eating eggs increases the risk of heart attack or stroke, although the study shows no causal relationship.
However, it provides sufficient data to "make a strong statement that eggs and overall cholesterol intake on food remain important in influencing the risk of (cardiovascular disease) and even more the risk of all-cause mortality," doctor Robert Eckel from the University of Colorado, wrote in an editorial in Jama.
But as Tom Sanders, a professor of dietetics at King's College in London, points out, these results differ from a major American study published in 1999 that found no effect, such as an analysis of three million adults from 2013 in the British medical journal BMJ.
A recent Chinese study even concluded that cholesterol reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Sanders believes the new results are only relevant to the United States, where the average person eats more eggs and meat than in Europe.
"Eggs in moderation – about 3 to 4 a week – is fine, and that's what the current UK dietary guidelines say," Sanders said.
In France, national nutrition guidelines refute the idea that you should eat no more than two eggs a week, "you can eat them regularly."
And dietitian Victoria Taylor, from the British Heart Foundation, emphasizes that the way you eat the egg and with what's so important.
"Healthy eating has everything to do with balance. If you eat too much of one thing, it leaves less room in the diet for other foods that may have more health benefits."
"Eggs are a nutritious food and while this study focuses on the amount we eat, it is just as important to pay attention to how the eggs are cooked and to the bells and whistles that go with it. toast is a much healthier meal than a traditional roast chicken. "