Is eating egg yolks as bad as smoking?
Eating egg yolks regularly increases plaque buildup about two-thirds as much as smoking does, according to a new study.
August 15th, 2012
05:38 PM ET

Is eating egg yolks as bad as smoking?

A new study suggests eating egg yolks can accelerate heart disease almost as much as smoking.

The study published online in the journal Atherosclerosis found eating egg yolks regularly increases plaque buildup about two-thirds as much as smoking does. Specifically, patients who ate three or more yolks a week showed significantly more plaque than those who ate two or less yolks per week.

It may seem harsh to compare smoking with eating egg yolks, but lead study author Dr. David Spence says researchers needed a way to put it into perspective since both eating cholesterol and smoking increase cardiovascular risks - but the general public believes smoking is far worse for your health.

The issue is with the yolk, not the egg, says Spence, who is also a professor of neurology at the University of Western Ontario's Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. "One jumbo chicken egg yolk has about 237 milligrams of cholesterol."

Keeping a diet low in cholesterol is key, says Spence.  Even if you are young and healthy, eating egg yolks can increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases later.

"Just because you are 20 doesn't mean egg yolks aren't going to cause any trouble down the line," he says.

Study: Egg yolk nearly as bad as smoking

For those patients with increased coronary risk, such as diabetics, eating an egg yolk a day can increase coronary risk by two to five-fold, he adds.

Atherosclerosis, also called coronary artery disease, occurs when plaque builds up in the blood vessels leading to the heart, specifically the inner arterial wall, and limits the amount of blood that can pass through.

Doctors write a prescription for fresh produce

In the study, researchers looked at 1,231 patients of the vascular prevention clinics at London Health Sciences Centre's University Hospital, with a mean age of 61.5. Each patient had already experienced a small stroke or  had high blood pressure, hypertension or a family history of cardiovascular disease. Spence says researchers chose to use patients with a higher likelihood of cardiovascular issues because it would have been harder to get visible results using the general population with a lower risk.

Patients were asked to fill out questionnaires about their diet, lifestyle and medications, including how much they smoked and the number of egg yolks they ate.  An ultrasound was performed to examine their plaque buildup. Researchers took into account sex, cholesterol, blood pressure, smoking, body mass index and diabetes.

In addition to relying completely on the recollection of patients as to what they ate, the study did not account for waist circumference and it did not account for a patient's exercise program.  And perhaps most notably, it only looked at patients with existing cardiovascular issues.

The study confirms what doctors already know about eating cholesterol and cardiovascular disease, says Dr, Gordon Tomaselli, chief of cardiology at John Hopkins University School of Medicine and the former president of the American Heart Association.

"Cholesterol intake should be limited to 300 milligrams a day, particularly in people who do not have underlying heart disease," he says.

However, people with high LDL blood cholesterol levels or those taking a blood cholesterol-lowering medication should eat less than 200 mg of cholesterol per day.

So what can you do to keep your heart healthy?

Talk to your doctor if you have a history of heart disease and consider a change in lifestyle – things like eating better, watching your cholesterol, stopping smoking, and exercising.

"The Last Heart Attack"

soundoff (1,086 Responses)
  1. Kim

    I exercise several times per week and over the past three years I have been consuming about 4 eggs per week – my cholesterol levels and blood pressure have DROPPED over 30 points as a result of my overhauled diet and increased exercise. Stop blaming one food or one habit.

    And correct me if I'm wrong here but doesn't this sentence just say it all, "Spence says researchers chose to use patients with a higher likelihood of cardiovascular issues because it would have been harder to get visible results using the general population with a lower risk." So basically they used a tiny group that would generate the results they wanted to see. Unreal.

    August 17, 2012 at 07:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • James

      And the results they wanted to see generated this article and a paycheck for someone. And the sky is blue.

      August 17, 2012 at 07:51 | Report abuse |
    • Sofia

      I agree, nonsense! I wonder who is really benefeting from this "study".

      August 17, 2012 at 08:00 | Report abuse |
    • Albert

      The study does not address other issues with smoking such as various types of cancer and emphysema. It is silly to say that they have a similar risk when in fact the risk from smoking is far greater.

      August 17, 2012 at 08:14 | Report abuse |
    • Estoy Listo

      And corellation is not causation

      August 17, 2012 at 08:16 | Report abuse |
    • Keeled

      I find it amazing that these studies still exist against eggs. A few years ago egg yolks were good for you and now they are bad, Again. Start using Money on something important like the Cure for Cancer or Cure for Politicians.

      August 17, 2012 at 08:21 | Report abuse |
    • Brendan Butts

      I completly agree. The bigger issue here is that an increasing number of people are spending the majority of their day sitting or being inactive. When dealing with health issues, I always believe in a holistic approach that includes addressing life stressors, entire diet, family history, etc. Not just focusing on a single group who is already at risk. This study was a complete waste of resources.

      August 17, 2012 at 08:54 | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      maybe it would have fallen 60 points if you cut out eggs 🙂

      August 17, 2012 at 09:08 | Report abuse |
    • Valerie

      Great points you made Kim. : )
      Exercise is the key to good health and I agree that a few eggs a week aren't going to make any difference to a person who is moving their money maker regularly.

      August 17, 2012 at 09:35 | Report abuse |
    • robby

      the risks, according to them, for cardiovascular health are similar to smoking, so they're 'just as bad as smoking'. unless of course if you count the whole throat and lung cancer aspects, which i'm sure no one cares about.

      August 17, 2012 at 09:35 | Report abuse |
    • Athena6515

      I'm pretty sure there was a NEW article 2 months ago? showing that heart attacks weren't caused by the plaque buildup itself. it's actually an inflammation of the arteries/veins that swell and constrict and cause it. So, yes if you have a high amount of plague a smaller inflammation would make it worse, but even someone without the buildup could die. So.. take a anti inflammatory (aspirin) and eat your egg yolks.

      August 17, 2012 at 09:41 | Report abuse |
    • Dono1

      To make it short, this article is telling you to not smoke your eggs as it's as bad as smoking cigarette.

      Okay... I was joking there.

      August 17, 2012 at 09:51 | Report abuse |
    • Now we know

      CNN is the queen of stupidity.

      August 17, 2012 at 09:53 | Report abuse |
  2. James

    Eat your greens. Drink your pot likker. Be well.

    August 17, 2012 at 07:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Dp

    I guess it must have been a real slow day in the new's I'm so tired of this "everything is bad for you" all the time new's if we listened to these idiots all the time there would be nothing left to eat or drink..........I have to question CNN's committment to news worthy stories.

    August 17, 2012 at 08:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Kat

    I've looked at many of the ways that I could leave this world, and the least painful has to be heart attack. Also, I don't want to live to see my family watch me suffer... Pass on the yolks, bacon, and any other food that will help me enjoy life without fear!

    August 17, 2012 at 08:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Rob

    Just a thought but CNN posted an article today about smoking killing 1 billion people this century but they also have this article about egg yolks being as bad as smoking. So, by CNN's flawed logic, egg yolks will kill 1 billion people this century. Hey CNN, thanks for horrible reporting.


    August 17, 2012 at 08:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Sath

    II ate an egg every day for breakfast for more than 27 years. At 36, I still eat an egg 3 times a week. It actually makes you feel full throughout the morning. My weight, HDL/LDL and EVERYTHING is perfect.

    August 17, 2012 at 08:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Romas

    I say ignore this study because you can study a low risk group and get just the opposite result. As far asI am concerned this is just another scare tactic to get you into the doctors office where he can prescribe you drugs to control your cholesterol. Hmm anyone else see something wrong with that?

    August 17, 2012 at 08:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • John in NY

      Yeah, it appears that they shaped the study to get the results they wanted.

      August 17, 2012 at 08:26 | Report abuse |
    • lilyq


      August 17, 2012 at 08:39 | Report abuse |
  8. Straittalk23

    This is the biggest pile of crap I've come across since long time....
    Often time this nutritionist would come with something contrary to every bit of common sence and contradict every observation. I get the feeling they look at deep space from a peep hole. Go figure how much they see.
    This science is in its INFANCY, in 50 years from now, nutritionists would probably KNOW WHAT THEY ARE talking about.

    August 17, 2012 at 08:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Sumguy

    Doesn't using people with heart problems open the possibility that some people process cholesterol diferent the others....and they picked the people most sensitive to it? Seems like a lazy way to do a study like this.

    August 17, 2012 at 08:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. tyler1791

    Why is this news? We knew eggs had high cholesterol over 20 years ago and eating too many is not good for your health.

    Thanks researchers for telling us something that we already know and has been proven before.

    August 17, 2012 at 08:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. real american

    these Dr.s need to do some hard work to use those eggs to build their brain cells

    August 17, 2012 at 08:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Kirstin

    two points:

    1. Is eating egg yolks as bad as smoking? No, because eggs don't cause lung cancer, and smoking doesn't contain iron or protein.

    2. eggs are highly correlated with bacon and sausage (lots of saturated fat, salt, other preservatives, and due to the fat content they end up cooked at a high temperature which can produce toxic chemicals) ... the foods eaten with the eggs may be the real culprits

    August 17, 2012 at 08:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Carol

      Excellent point and just what I was thinking. They didn't factor out the ties with bacon, sausage, ham, hollandaise sauce, butter, etc. I like my eggs cooked in bacon fat so I guess for my heart I should skip the eggs and just drink the fat directly 😛

      Study was probably funded by Kellogs.

      August 17, 2012 at 09:31 | Report abuse |
  13. theresa

    People have been eating egg yolks for centuries, if not millennia! "Eat well, exercise, die anyway." If one thing doesn't get you, another will, there's no "living forever" – do what's right for YOU, not what some random study says.

    August 17, 2012 at 08:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. srichey321

    Sounds like corporate interests using their own research to gain some sort of advantage for their own interests.


    August 17, 2012 at 08:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. james

    Give it up. It is all in your genes. Many of my relatives ate eggs, hog meat and beef everyday of their lives and lived into their 90's.

    August 17, 2012 at 08:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Elizabeth

    This study appears to have poor internal validity (variables not at all controlled to exclude other confounding variables) and terrible external validity (it can only be applied to people in that very specific (and unhealthy) demographic). If i presented a study like this to my research professor he would tear me a new one.

    August 17, 2012 at 08:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • I'mLiztoo

      Well said!
      I'd also like to know who funded the study? They're not done for free. It obviously wasn't the egg promotion lobby! Wait...did someone say BIG PHARMA?...'cause Im pretty sure they have a pill for that

      August 17, 2012 at 09:06 | Report abuse |
  17. bcarpe

    *Johns Hopkins (note the 's' in 'Johns')

    August 17, 2012 at 08:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Pinkflam

    Outrageous. Simply outrageous. Another illustration that idle minds are the Devil's tools.

    August 17, 2012 at 08:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. lilyq

    Studies are infinitely flawed. Did they take into account that people who consume said number of eggs might also eat little debbie snack cakes and mcdonalds every day? What about vegetarians who eat eggs but no little debbie snack cakes or mcdonalds? It's BS

    August 17, 2012 at 08:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. star

    What an irresponsible article! First of all, dietary intake of cholesterol has very little impact on blood cholesterol levels-STRESS is what increases it the most. Secondly, cholesterol is necessary for the repair of the lining of arteries and veins. There is a reason why we were made to produce it. Exercise burns off the excess, managing stress, and a high fiber diet is key to managing excess cholesterol production and overall health. Eggs make little or no difference and are a high quality healthy food.
    It irks me when science is misused, and when articles are written using archaic information no longer applicable.

    August 17, 2012 at 08:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Yolk

    This is not true for everyone. I have been eating an average of 21 eggs each week for breakfast, that's three per day, either scrambled or in omelettes, since 1997. My cholesterol level is 108. I also am my body weight. It's about genetics. Some of us in this world are predisposed to high cholesterol due to our genetic makeup and eggs happens to be on the list. It doesn't affect everyone, though.

    August 17, 2012 at 08:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Sella

    I find it ridiculous to state that eating egg yolks is as bad for your health as smoking. Does eating egg yolks also cause other serious health problems like CANCER, and chronic breathing issues? I realize that heart disease is a very serious health problem, but egg yolks do not measure up to cigarettes in terms of deadly health effects.

    August 17, 2012 at 08:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Lew

    Eggs are safe. Wait, no they're killers. Actually, they aren't as bad as we thought. STOP THE PRESSES – STOP EATING EGGS! Sorry for the alarm. Eggs are actually vital to our health. Give me a break.

    August 17, 2012 at 08:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Glades2

    I'd have to agree with poster star – I've never drank or smoked, and limit my egg yolk intake to 3 or less for many years – and even to zero when using egg whites – but due to long term stress I'm still shown to have plaque buildup. Stress is a killer, much more than we realize – even the daily morning drive down the crowded highway to work is far worse for our health than any egg...

    August 17, 2012 at 08:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Bob B

    Studys aren't always right. I live by the old saying, use moderation when it comes to about everything and you should live a long life.

    August 17, 2012 at 08:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Dan Bednarik

    Was this study even peer-reviewed?? Or is this a "publish whatever you want" journal? Having spent 25 years in cardiovascular research, I can tell you the issue is metabolic and genotype. The data is skewed and highly questionable.

    August 17, 2012 at 08:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Leo

    Pure retardation. People have been doing this for a very long time and have been very healthy. This kind of news is for the 'info babies', who are totally into reading nonsense and trying to redefine nature. I will always eat the yolk, as that is the essence of life. And I will not stay dormant, as that is really what kills you.

    August 17, 2012 at 08:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Sandra

    Maybe, big maybe, egg yolks will increase plaque, but smoking not only does that, it also rots the mouth, the lungs, the eyes, the skin etc etc. So, have a whole grain bread with rolled oats in it with you eggs. Cholesterol issue solved.

    August 17, 2012 at 08:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • gager

      Since eliminating grains of all kind I have lost 40 pounds.

      August 17, 2012 at 09:07 | Report abuse |
  29. Universal Unitarian Woman

    I agree with what Josie said on page 4 of the comments:

    "Wow, it seems like there are many angry people over this one, I guess since so many people eat eggs no one wants to believe that it can be bad for them."

    August 17, 2012 at 08:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Idol Girl

      I agree with you Universal Unitarian Woman.

      August 17, 2012 at 09:00 | Report abuse |
    • gager

      There are no clinical studies showing eggs are bad. In fact, clinical studies show eggs are excellent.

      August 17, 2012 at 09:06 | Report abuse |
    • Universal Unitarian Woman


      I suggest reading this: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cholesterol/HQ00608

      To deny that eggs are bad is anti-science.

      August 17, 2012 at 09:27 | Report abuse |
    • Idol Girl

      Once again, I agree with you Universal Unitarian Woman. The majority of the people commenting here are anti-science.

      August 17, 2012 at 09:28 | Report abuse |
    • Carol

      Choosing to ignore a history of vastly different conclusions and blindly relying on one study without considering the others – that is anti-science.

      August 17, 2012 at 09:48 | Report abuse |
    • Universal Unitarian Woman


      I suggest you read what the MayoClinic says about the issue as well: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cholesterol/HQ00608

      August 17, 2012 at 09:59 | Report abuse |
    • Idol Girl


      It's common sense. A diet high in cholesterol can contribute to high blood cholesterol levels. To deny that fact is anti-science.

      August 17, 2012 at 10:04 | Report abuse |
    • Universal Unitarian Woman

      @Idol Girl

      You're exactly right. It's common sense.

      August 17, 2012 at 10:05 | Report abuse |
    • Carol

      @Idol Girl, you are arguing something completely different than me. I'm not arguing the causality of eating cholesterol and having cholesterol in your body. The over-generalization that eggs are "bad," however, has never been conclusively established. The article's cited study is poorly conducted and poorly reported, and the scientific community has never been able to agree for more than a couple years at a time about whether eggs are good or bad cholesterol. Maintaing skepticism in this instance is the only reasonable way to proceed from a scientific perspective.

      August 17, 2012 at 10:11 | Report abuse |
    • Idol Girl


      Looks like we'll have to agree to disagree then. Research suggests that a more plant-based diet – which means eating fewer eggs, less cheese, red and processed meats, and more vegetables, beans, nuts and fruits – is better for you. My doctor even suggests that.

      August 17, 2012 at 11:06 | Report abuse |
    • Universal Unitarian Woman

      @Idol Girl,

      My doctor also suggests that.

      August 17, 2012 at 11:47 | Report abuse |
  30. bored already

    Dr. Sanjay is a CNN tool that will post any "findings" that will create the usual fear and chaos that stops people from making the choices THEY want to make. Egg yolks are fine to eat, people.

    August 17, 2012 at 09:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Brian

    This study is complete garbage. I had high cholesterol several years ago and worked out quite often but still couldn't get my cholesterol under control. I started adding 3 to 4 eggs per week to my diet and my cholesterol has dropped.

    August 17, 2012 at 09:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • gager

      I eat on an average about 3 eggs per day and the last stress test and heart test showed clear arteries and perfect cholesterol and triglycerides.

      August 17, 2012 at 09:04 | Report abuse |
  32. gager

    In answer to the question, "Is eating egg yolks as bad as smoking?"
    The answer is, no. In fact egg yokes are nutrient dense and much better than almost anything. Eggs are just about the perfect food.

    August 17, 2012 at 09:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Kurt

    Completely false. The fact is that Free Range chickens will produce healthier eggs than caged birds fed all kinds of crap that lead sedentary lives. This type of article is not worthy of the time it takes to read it. Utter BS.

    August 17, 2012 at 09:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Pink Floyd

    If you don't eat your meat, you can't have any pudding. How can you have your pudding, if you don't eat your meat.

    August 17, 2012 at 09:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Mama toad

    Dietary cholesterol does NOT equal blood cholesterol. I would be more curious to see the average weight of those studied. So many obese people in the U.S. are completely skewing our health related studies.

    August 17, 2012 at 09:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Brett Y

    Do not forget that low levels of Vitamin D is harming people. But yet eggs are the best source other then Sunlight, opps do not go in the sun light its a killer too.

    I usuall scramblle eggs after taking out 1 of 3 or 4 egg yolks. Actaully takes lighter cooked with EVOO and not butter which whill make your heart stutter!

    August 17, 2012 at 09:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Brett Y

    Sorry did not spell check.

    August 17, 2012 at 09:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Steven Colo

    So lemme get this straight. A bunch of people who were at risk for heart attacks and likely had been ordered by their doctors to quit smoking at any cost, were studied and the results are applicable to all of us who are not at risk for heart attacks and who likely have higher incidence of smoking. Note that the studied patients likely also had lifestyle issues which put them more at risk and also made the sample less representational.

    I realize that it's a lot easier to present results and then footnote the fact that they're not really useful than to remove confounding factors from the data, but it ain't science.

    August 17, 2012 at 09:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. mikey

    What about smoking egg yolks?!??

    August 17, 2012 at 09:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. COchick

    What a bunch of crap! Heart disease has also increased by our poor diets that do not only include eggs, like over consumption of meat, cows milk, hydrogenated oils in all processed food etc why isnt this included in their "study" oh thats right theyre afraid to offend those industries!

    August 17, 2012 at 09:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. kkat


    August 17, 2012 at 09:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. athunt

    The truth of the matter is that runny egg yolks = good cholesterol , hard egg yolks = bad cholesterol.
    So if you eat soft boiled eggs that's good. But hard boiled eggs are bad.
    Why this article doesn't mention that is beyond me...

    August 17, 2012 at 09:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • mrsmass

      that's the truth? because i read there is little evidence supporting this.

      August 17, 2012 at 09:46 | Report abuse |
  43. Sandra

    I think we must stop reading CNN altogether , thy print such nonsense. Completely jobless ppl.

    August 17, 2012 at 09:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. David

    No offense, but i don't exactly value the opinion of a professor from the University of Western Ontario's Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. If this was out of Harvard or some prominent clinic, i would put more weight on it. I've been eating two eggs a day all my life for breakfast and i'm over 40 – my cholesterol is lower than the average at my age. I definitely agree that people with a genetic disposition to have higher cholesterol levels (no matter what they eat or do) really can't be helped with diet and exercise, but for the rest of us, who exercise and have a healthy diet, eating two eggs a day has more benefits than harm.

    August 17, 2012 at 09:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. elizabeth Besteder

    This study has a stated HUGE flaw - "it only looked at patients with existing cardiovascular issues."

    Who designs these studies. Patients who already have existing Cardio conditions, most likely are also already overweight, don't exersise, and suspetable the plaque build up.

    Also, there was not true collection of how many egg yolks, is just based on a survey.

    So really I cannot draw any conclusions about this, other than maybe if you already have heart disease don't eat egg yolks. But, they have looked at egg consumption in the past, with more objective studies, and found no increased risk of heart disease. Im healthy, eat eggs, and have a cholestral level of 70.

    August 17, 2012 at 09:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. mlcook

    Might as well start smoking again!

    August 17, 2012 at 09:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. mrsmass

    so every three years eggs are bad and the other years, eggs are great for you?

    August 17, 2012 at 09:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Scrape

    This headline and study are complete BS. Cheers.

    August 17, 2012 at 09:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Idol Girl

    I agree with what the MayoClinic says: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cholesterol/HQ00608

    August 17, 2012 at 09:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Universal Unitarian Woman

      I agree with what the MayoClinic says too.

      August 17, 2012 at 09:48 | Report abuse |
  50. Jeff

    I have no respect for the "researchers" or "journalists (CNN)" who published this absurd study based solely on a questionnaire. The results were a complete fabrication with ZERO science/medicine to back it up. At least it was England's tax-dollars that probably funded the grant for this lie, I mean study. CNN should have trashed this story not published it.

    August 17, 2012 at 09:56 | Report abuse | Reply
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