My Plantcentric Journey

Yolks, like smokes, a big risk

WESTERN STUDY: Egg’s golden heart almost tobacco’s equal for heart attack and stroke risk


Last Updated: August 14, 2012

"We have decades of clinical, scientific research that demonstrates no link between egg consumption and an increased risk for heart disease." -- Karen Harvey, nutrition officer, Egg Farmers of Canada(Egg Farmers of Ontario)

Yolk or smoke — the first is almost as bad for you as the second, London researchers have found.

When it comes to raising your risk of heart attacks and strokes, eating egg yolks is nearly as bad as smoking, the Western University researchers found.

“If you are at risk of heart attack and stroke, you shouldn’t eat egg yolks,” said Dr. David Spence, a Robarts Research Institute scientist.

“The problem is, if you expect to live a long time you are going to be at risk of heart attacks and strokes,” said Spence, who’s also director of the Stroke Prevention and Atherosclerosis Research Centre in London.

“Why would you want to be eating something that makes the plaque in your arteries build up faster and make your heart attack and stroke come on sooner?”

Western researchers studied 1,231 patients, using ultrasound to measure plaque buildup on the inside wall of their arteries.

Most heart attacks and strokes are caused when built-up plaque ruptures.

Patients in the study filled out questionnaires about lifestyle and medications, including consumption of egg yolks and cigarettes.

While the buildup of plaque was a straight-line increase for people after age 40, it rose exponentially for smokers and regular egg yolk eaters.

Researchers also found people eating three or more egg yolks a week had significantly more plaque on their artery walls than those eating two or fewer yolks a week.

Eating yolks triggered plaque build-up at two-thirds the rate for people who are smokers.

“In the long haul, eggs are not OK for most Canadians,” Spence said.

The research was published online Monday in the international journal Atherosclerosis.

Monday, Egg Farmers of Canada rejected the study findings.

Karen Harvey, a nutrition officer and registered dietician with the national group, said it’s unfair to compare egg yolks with smoking.

“It goes without saying that smoking is considered one of the most harmful activities when it comes to your personal health and wellness. We have decades of clinical, scientific research that demonstrates no link between egg consumption and an increased risk for heart disease,” Harvey said.

Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods and the yolk a major source of an egg’s vitamins and minerals, she said.

The problem with egg yolks, Spence said, is the recommended daily intake of cholesterol for people at risk of heart attack and strokes is less than 200 milligrams a day. But one jumbo egg yolk contains 237 mg of cholesterol.

There’s no problem consuming egg whites, which are an excellent source of protein, he said.

Spence expects a backlash from the egg industry, a lobby he likened to the tobacco industry that for decades denied any health problems from smoking.

Last time he released a study in 2010, linking eggs to health problems, Spence’s home was egged and a major donor pulled its funding from the university.

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