Just one egg a day can keep heart disease away, study says

BEIJING, China — New, egg-citing research reports moderate egg consumption may provide a major boost to heart health. Scientists say eating up to one egg daily can increase the amount of heart-healthy metabolites in the blood, thus lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease.

As synonymous with breakfast as orange juice, eggs are chock-full of essential nutrients. Despite that, they also contain a lot of cholesterol. Scientists have debated for decades whether eggs are more beneficial or harmful to heart health. For instance, in 2018, a study featuring about 500,000 Chinese adults concluded that daily egg consumption (roughly one per day) results in lower heart disease and stroke risk.

This study’s authors set out to get a better grasp on this topic by using a population-based research approach. This latest work explores how egg consumption influences cardiovascular health markers in the blood.

“Few studies have looked at the role that plasma cholesterol metabolism plays in the association between egg consumption and the risk of cardiovascular diseases, so we wanted to help address this gap,” explains first study author Lang Pan, MSc, from Peking University in Beijing, China, in a media release.

The team selected a large group of participants (4,778) for this project from the China Kadoorie Biobank. Of those individuals, 3,401 had cardiovascular disease while 1,377 did not. Researchers used a complex technique called targeted nuclear magnetic resonance to measure 225 specific metabolites across blood plasma samples collected from each person. Among those 225, a total of 24 had a connection to self-reported levels of egg consumption.

Eggs linked to increases in good cholesterol

The analysis revealed that people who consistently eat a moderate amount of eggs usually have more of a protein in their blood called apolipoprotein A1. Scientists consider that protein a major building-block of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or good lipoprotein.

In particular, consistent egg eaters showed more large HDL molecules in their blood. These help move cholesterol away from blood vessels and prevent blockages. Clogged arteries significantly increase one’s risk of heart attack and stroke.

Overall, the team also noted another 14 heart disease-linked metabolites. In general, people eating less eggs had lower levels of beneficial metabolites and higher levels of potentially harmful blood metabolites.

“Together, our results provide a potential explanation for how eating a moderate amount of eggs can help protect against heart disease,” adds study author Canqing Yu, Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Peking University. “More studies are needed to verify the causal roles that lipid metabolites play in the association between egg consumption and the risk of cardiovascular disease.”

“This study may also have implications for Chinese national dietary guidelines,” concludes senior study author Liming Li, Boya Distinguished Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. “Current health guidelines in China suggest eating one egg a day, but data indicate that the average consumption is lower than this. Our work highlights the need for more strategies to encourage moderate egg consumption among the population, to help lower the overall risk of cardiovascular disease.”

The study is published in the journal eLife.

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