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Eggs – A Risk Factor for Atherosclerosis Equivalent to Smoking?

Submitted by on March 13, 2013 – 5:55 PM 2 Comments

Fried-Eggs_with fruitEggs are considered as one of the key components of a traditional English breakfast and for egg lovers, nothing beats that protein boost they need to start the day. However, new research at the University of Western Ontario, London, Canada, which suggests that egg yolk could be seen as a risk factor for stroke and heart attack may struggle to put off egg lovers.


Having surveyed 1,231 men and women, the findings suggest that regular consumption of egg yolk accelerates atherosclerosis, an effect which is more often linked to smoking cigarettes. Atherosclerosis, commonly known as coronary artery disease, is a disorder of the arteries where plaques, aggravated by cholesterol, form on the inner arterial wall. Rupture of this plaque is the usual cause of most heart attacks and many strokes. The study found that those eating at least three yolks a week had significantly more plaque area than those who ate up to two yolks per week.


The study involved patients, with a mean age of 61.5, visiting vascular prevention clinics in Ontario. An ultrasound was used to establish a measurement of total plaque area and questionnaires were filled out regarding the patients’ lifestyles. The research found that after 40, carotid plaque area increased in line with age, but after years of regular smoking and egg yolk consumption it increased exponentially. Dr David Spence, the lead author of the study revealed that eating the yolk of an egg is about two-thirds as bad as smoking when it comes to increased build-up of carotid.


Dr Spence, 67, who is also a neurology professor, said: “The mantra ‘eggs can be part of a healthy diet for healthy people’ has confused the issue. High cholesterol intake increases the risk of cardiovascular events, and egg yolks have a very high cholesterol content so with age, plaque builds up gradually in the arteries and egg yolks make it build up faster.”


Spence added that the effects were independent of sex, cholesterol, blood pressure, smoking, body mass index and diabetes. And while he feels the need for more research, he emphasized that regular consumption of egg yolk should be avoided by anyone at risk of cardiovascular disease.


The research has been published online in the journal, Atherosclerosis.



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  • Haris Riaz

    Hafsa: An interesting topic to write and well written. As you have mentioned this study was limited by a cross sectional study design warranting prospective studies. In a very recent meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies published by the British Medical Journal, no association was seen between consumption of eggs and the development of atherosclerosis in otherwise healthy individuals:
    However, the sub-group analysis did show an increased risk of coronary artery disease and reduced risk of hemorrhagic stroke among diabetic patients. It will be safe to conclude that we need more data to draw clinically relevant conclusions.

  • Hafsa Mohiuddin

    Thanking you for elaborating on the topic. Indeed more data is required to draw a reliable conclusion for the general, otherwise healthy population, especially because this particular study catered to the age group of people above 40, who are already prone to atherosclerosis. Moreover, it did not take into account smoking and other contributing factors, as mentioned.