This article was written by one of The Food Medic team; registered dietitian Maeve Hanan
It’s not unusual to feel worried about eating too many eggs, especially if you are concerned about your cholesterol levels. But is there really a need to limit egg intake for health? Read on to find out!
What nutrients do eggs provide?
Eggs are a very nutritious food, in fact they are sometimes called ‘nature’s multivitamin’.
Egg whites are a good source of ‘complete protein’. This means that they contain all of the essential amino acids (protein building blocks) that our body needs from our diet in good amounts.
The yolk of the egg is particularly nutrient-packed as this contains:
- choline – an important nutrient for the brain and nervous system
- antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin
- vitamin A
- vitamin D
- riboflavin (vitamin B2)
- niacin (vitamin B3)
- pantothenic acid (vitamin B5)
- biotin (vitamin B7)
- vitamin B12
- minerals such as selenium, phosphorus, chloride, manganese and iodine
Eggs and cholesterol
Those with high cholesterol, or those at risk of this, used to be advised to limit their egg intake, as eggs are high in dietary cholesterol. But the latest research shows that dietary cholesterol is unlikely to impact blood cholesterol levels for most people, and that a high intake of saturated fat plays a much bigger role (1, 2).
Eggs contain a low to medium amount of fat and saturated fat (3).
Foods high in saturated fat include:
- coconut oil
- pies and pastries
- fatty meats e.g. sausages, burgers, chorizo, salami
So in many countries, including the UK, there’s currently no recommended egg limit for either the general population or for those with heart disease or high cholesterol.
The British Dietetic Association (BDA) recommends that eggs “naturally contain dietary cholesterol, but don’t make a big difference to the cholesterol in your blood…. Only cut down on these foods if your doctor or a dietitian has advised you to.” (4).
An exception to this is those with a genetic condition called familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH) which leads to high cholesterol levels. FH impacts roughly 1 in 500 people in the UK, and those with this condition are advised to limit their egg intake to 4 per week (5).
Recent large meta-analysis studies have found that eating up to 1 egg per day doesn’t seem to increase cholesterol or heart disease and may even reduce risks in certain populations (1,6, 7, 8).
Other research has found that up to 12 eggs per week has no negative effect on the risk of heart disease or related factors (9).
Some studies have found mixed results or an association between consuming more eggs or dietary cholesterol and increased heart disease risks (1, 10). However, there are limitations to some of these studies in terms of study design, whether saturated fat intake is fully considered and the total amount or change in dietary cholesterol intake.
Overall, the consensus is that having 1-2 eggs per day is not harmful for health, heart disease risk and cholesterol levels, and eggs are a nutritious food to include in a balanced and varied diet.
It’s also important to mention that there are many factors that impact cholesterol and heart disease risk, some of which are not within our control like our genetics, and overall diet and lifestyle plays a bigger role compared to looking at any single food.
Who needs to be more careful with eggs?
As mentioned above, those with a specific medical condition called familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) are usually advised to limit their egg intake to 4 per week.
Pregnant people also need to be careful with the types of eggs they consume in order to reduce the risk of salmonella food poisoning. This group is advised to avoid raw or partially cooked eggs. However, eggs with a British Lion stamp can be consumed in any way, including raw or partially cooked, as these are much less likely to contain salmonella (11).
Eggs are also a food that some people can be allergic too, particularly babies and young children who are prone to this. So when first Introducing eggs to babies when weaning, it’s advised to introduce this in small amounts without introducing other allergenic foods at the same time (11). However, avoiding eggs for too long (beyond) 6 to 12 months might actually increase the risk of developing an egg allergy (12, 13).
Eggs are an extremely nutritious food, don’t miss out on the egg yolk if you want to get the full nutritional benefits.
Based on the current evidence base, eating 1-2 eggs per day as part of a balanced diet is considered safe and possibly even beneficial for health, including heart health and cholesterol levels, not harmful for health, heart disease risk and cholesterol levels, and eggs are a nutritious food to include in a balanced and varied diet.
Of course, there are some medical exceptions to this. So always follow individual advice you have received from a qualified health professional like your doctor or dietitian.
- Carson, J. A. S., Lichtenstein, A. H., Anderson, C. A., Appel, L. J., Kris-Etherton, P. M., Meyer, K. A., … & Van Horn, L. (2020). Dietary cholesterol and cardiovascular risk: a science advisory from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 141(3), e39-e53. [accessed July 2022 via: https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIR.0000000000000743]
- Sacks, F. M., Lichtenstein, A. H., Wu, J. H., Appel, L. J., Creager, M. A., Kris-Etherton, P. M., … & Van Horn, L. V. (2017). Dietary fats and cardiovascular disease: a presidential advisory from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 136(3), e1-e23. [accessed July 2022 via: https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/cir.0000000000000510]
- Nutritics Database [accessed July 2022 via: https://www.nutritics.com/]
- BDA (2021) “Cholesterol: Food Fact Sheet” [accessed July 2022 via: https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/cholesterol.html]
- [accessed July 2022 via: https://www.bhf.org.uk/what-we-do/news-from-the-bhf/news-archive/2015/may/eggs-and-cholesterol]
- Godos, J., Micek, A., Brzostek, T., Toledo, E., Iacoviello, L., Astrup, A., … & Grosso, G. (2021). Egg consumption and cardiovascular risk: a dose–response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. European journal of nutrition, 60(4), 1833-1862. [accessed July 2022 via: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32865658/]
- Alexander, D. D., Miller, P. E., Vargas, A. J., Weed, D. L., & Cohen, S. S. (2016). Meta-analysis of egg consumption and risk of coronary heart disease and stroke. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 35(8), 704-716. [accessed July 2022 via: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27710205/]
- Drouin-Chartier, J. P., Chen, S., Li, Y., Schwab, A. L., Stampfer, M. J., Sacks, F. M., … & Bhupathiraju, S. N. (2020). Egg consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease: three large prospective US cohort studies, systematic review, and updated meta-analysis. bmj, 368. [accessed July 2022 via: https://www.bmj.com/content/368/bmj.m513]
- Richard, C., Cristall, L., Fleming, E., Lewis, E. D., Ricupero, M., Jacobs, R. L., & Field, C. J. (2017). Impact of egg consumption on cardiovascular risk factors in individuals with type 2 diabetes and at risk for developing diabetes: a systematic review of randomized nutritional intervention studies. Canadian Journal of Diabetes, 41(4), 453-463. [accessed July 2022 via: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28359773/]
- Zhong, V. W., Van Horn, L., Cornelis, M. C., Wilkins, J. T., Ning, H., Carnethon, M. R., … & Allen, N. B. (2019). Associations of dietary cholesterol or egg consumption with incident cardiovascular disease and mortality. Jama, 321(11), 1081-1095. [accessed July 2022 via: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30874756/]
- NHS Website (2020) “Foods to avoid in pregnancy” [accessed July 2022 via: https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/keeping-well/foods-to-avoid/]
- NHS Website (2021) “Food allergies in babies and young children” [accessed July 2022 via: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/baby/weaning-and-feeding/food-allergies-in-babies-and-young-children/]
- Leech, S. C., Ewan, P. W., Skypala, I. J., Brathwaite, N., Erlewyn‐Lajeunesse, M., Heath, S., … & Clark, A. T. (2021). BSACI 2021 guideline for the management of egg allergy. Clinical & Experimental Allergy, 51(10), 1262-1278. [accessed July 2022 via: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cea.14009]
Is eating eggs everyday bad for you? was last modified: July 21st, 2022 by