No Yolk: Eating The Whole Egg As Dangerous As Smoking?


eggsJust as you were ready to tuck into a nice three-egg omelet again, comforted by the reassuring news that eggs are not so bad for you, here comes a study warning that for those over 40, the number of egg yolks consumed per week accelerates the thickening of arteries almost as severely as does cigarette smoking.

Server, can you make that an egg-white omelet instead, please?

The study, published Tuesday in the journal Atherosclerosis, measured the carotid wall thickness — a key indicator of heart disease risk — of 1,231 patients referred to a vascular prevention clinic, and asked each to detail a wide range of their health habits, from smoking and exercise to their consumption of egg yolks. Just as smoking is often tallied as “pack-years” (the number of cigarette packs smoked per day for how many years), egg-yolk consumption was tallied as “egg yolk years” (the number of egg yolks consumed per week times the number of years they were eaten).

The study subjects were typically referred to the clinic after having suffered a clot-induced stroke or a transient ischemic attack — a “mini-stroke” in which symptoms may disappear quickly but which often presage a more serious stroke to come.

Smoking tobacco and eating egg yolks increased carotid wall thickness in similar fashion — which is to say, the rate of increase accelerated with each stair-step up in cigarette smoking or yolk consumption. By contrast, for those who did not smoke, or who rarely consumed egg yolks, carotid wall thickness increased after 40, but at a slow-steady rate.

For those whose consumption of whole eggs was in the highest 20%, the narrowing of the carotid artery was on average about two-thirds that of the study’s heaviest smokers.

“We believe our study makes it imperative to reassess the role of egg yolks, and dietary cholesterol in general, as a risk factor for coronary heart disease,” the study authors write.

In recent years, nutritionists have begun to agree with egg purveyors that chicken eggs — cheap and packed with protein — have gotten a bad rap as a dangerous source of cholesterol. Some studies have suggested that eggs may increase HDL, or “good cholesterol” that protects against heart disease, even as it contributes to the artery-clogging LDL cholesterol, making egg consumption something of a wash. And regular egg-eaters may form larger lipoprotein particles that help clear the blood of fat particles and are not as likely to settle in artery walls.

Still, the National Heart Blood and Lung Institute recommends that to limit their risk of developing heart disease, Americans limit their cholesterol intake to no more than 300 mg per day (an egg yolk has just over 200 mg), and eat no more than four whole eggs weekly, including those in baked goods or processed foods. Those who already have heart disease, diabetes or high LDL-cholesterol, or who have had a stroke, should limit their cholesterol to less than 200 mg per day.


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  1. I think its the rambam that says that if u eat the yellow together with the white, the yellow/cholesterol wont hurt u. So go ahead and enjoy your eggs on shabbos morning. No harm will be done!!!

  2. this is somewhat misleading to say cholesterol causes strokes. cholesterol is a sticky substance which does build in the arteries in order to protect them from inflammation.

    so in reality it is the inflammation of artery walls that causes cholesterol to build up. if people refrain from foods that cause inflammation such as vegetable oils, trans fats, and other highly processed foods, then cholesterol wont build up and cause health problems.

  3. Interesting that the study subjects were referred because they had _already_ suffered a stroke or mini-stroke. According to conventional scientific methodology this means that the study may or may not apply to healthy, normal individuals. The take-home here is: wait until another study is done using healthy people before you start tossing your eggs. One study does not a fact make.

  4. The body manufactures its own cholesterol. Eggs are healthy. I eat them every day. My cholesterol is fine. I don’t eat garbage like greasy take out food or sugar, soda, white flour etc. The Ramban also says if you eat in moderation and don’t over eat you will be healthier. Just be normal and don’t take your eating to extremes. Eat to be healthy and eat to enjoy!

  5. Please – eggs are probably one of the healthiest and most beneficial food. An egg is a complete food, full of protein and other nutrients. It’s just that many people eat too much meat and also having eggs can be a bit too much. But, like everything, eating has to be in moderation. There’s probably a drop in people using medication for cholestrol and the pharmaceuticals have to make a living (ha,ha) -it all comes down to the money! Anyway, the foods today are so corrupted (plus other things) (buy only organic where/when available) that is why there is such an upsurge of all kinds of tzoros today. Also, a couple of years ago they said they found out that the egg is very healthy and eating the yolkless eggs were unnecessary and that the yolks were also good (the complete egg), and now all of a sudden, back to unhealthy. This is the way they confuse the people. Moderation is the key.

  6. That is only with eggs that are cooked too much. Don’t cook them so long or eat them raw. Raw eggs wont harm you if they’re organic, as organic eggs are not infected with salmonella.

    As for aiyer on Shabbos, Chazal taught us that Shabbos food is not harmful, so eat up.