The largest recent study on the health effects of eating eggs comes from a team of Chinese researchers who found that the daily intake of whole eggs was positively associated with the overall risk of death, while intake of egg whites or egg substitutes wasn’t. These findings, published in February 2021, are the latest on the correlation of egg consumption with the risk heart disease and death. (In 2019 I reported on a study from Northwestern University showing that adults who consumed more eggs had a significantly higher risk of cardiovascular disease and death from any cause than those who consumed fewer eggs.)
The new study is larger than the one from Northwestern. It includes data on 521,120 participants between the ages of 50 and 71 living in six U.S. states and two large cities between 1995 and 1996. Of these, 41.2 percent were women and 91.8 percent were non-Hispanic white. The researchers followed them for 16 years, during which 129,328 of them died. The investigators reported that every reported intake of an additional 300 mg of dietary cholesterol daily was associated with a 19 percent higher all-cause mortality, and each additional half of a whole egg daily was linked to a seven percent higher all-cause mortality. Consumption of egg whites was significantly associated with lower risk of death.
The findings suggest that limiting cholesterol intake and replacing whole eggs with egg whites/substitutes or other sources of protein promotes cardiovascular health and long-term survival.
Despite all this, there are good reasons to continue consuming eggs in moderation for their nutritional benefits. The yolks contain vitamins A, D, E and K as well as iron. The whites are a good source of protein. Eggs from free-ranging, organically fed hens also give you omega-3 fatty acids needed for optimum health.
The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of dietary cholesterol to less than 300 mg daily, but I wouldn’t focus on that where eggs are concerned. Instead, pay attention to how you prepare your eggs, avoiding butter or other forms of animal fat.
Andrew Weil, M.D.
Yu Zhang et al. (2021) Egg and cholesterol consumption and mortality from cardiovascular and different causes in the United States: A population-based cohort study. PLoS Med 18(2): e1003508. doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1003508