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.
About this blog
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.
If the person takes enough time out of their today to seperate EGG WHITES., Chances are that person doesn't eat FAST FOOD REGULARLY HAS TIME TO EXCERCISE. How about doing this research. Do people who remove egg whites for NUTRITIONAL REASONS AND NOT HEALTH REASON have more time to EXCERCISE?
It takes all of 10 seconds to separate an egg. This idea that we have no time to do trivial tasks is a crutch used by lazy people (and I include myself in that group).
They didn't ask how many slices of bacon they eat with their eggs, or how often they eat fried food, Ice cream, etc.
The article says that they asked questions about the subjects' diet (including, but not limited to whether they ate egg yolks). This study does have limited generalizability, but I suspect that they correctly controlled for the other foods people ate. They also asked about "lifestyle", which I would also expect to include daily exercise. I take greater issue with the sensationalist headline, rather than this study, which does point out a significant finding regarding a single inportant outcome: coronary disease.
There is zero excuse for not having time to exercise, even if for five minutes. You can do it while watching tv. It takes zero effort. Amazing how everyone has time to check facebook every hour, but god forbid they lift dumbells while watching American Idol, or while blabbing/texting about NOTHING on their phones. People are busy...being inefficient and then whining about it after they're done trying to appear more busy than they are.
This study is bogus! ANECDOTAL EVIDENCE!
Does this include pasture-raised eggs? Eggs raised in feedlots / CAFO situation are much higher in cholesterol and lower in vitamins and minerals than their pasture-raised counterparts. "You are what they eat." I'd rather eat an egg out of the pasture in my backyard than conventionally grown GMO soy beans.
I have had two eggs and toast for breakfast almost every day of my adult life. I am now 64. I recently had my carotid arteries scanned and they were totally clear. Serum cholesterol is primarily manufactured by the liver. The American Heart Association diet can only reduce serum cholesterol by about 10%, or 20 points. To say that eating eggs is equivalent to smoking discredits the study, in my opinion. Eggs yolks contain some vital nutrients, including methionine and vitamin A. Methionine helps with brain function. Try eating pancakes for breakfast and see how alert you are.
Eggs are Bad, No Eggs are good, No eggs are bad again, but they're good for you, but they're bad but now they're good and now they're bad again. Just wait 6 months, eggs will be good for us again.
They sell egg whites already separated at the grocery store. You don't have to manually do it. I eat them all the time.
I bet those body builders in the 80's that drank a glass of 12 raw eggs every day are kicking themselves now!
Maybe that is why so many wrestlers are dead?
Well, that and the steroids and drugs I suppose.
Give me a break. Bodybuilders are no worse off eating 12 egg yolks a day than those who eat fast food 3 or 4 times a week. This study does not take into account how much meat they ate, how much fatty food they ate, etc. Or at least they forget to mention that small tidbit in this lame article. Plus this study is pretty unreliable since there were no controls on what else these people were eating and it relies on the participants memory on what they eat. So someone posts a story on this study and now no one should eat egg yolks? How about actually doing a real controlled study then publish the results. My grandfather raised chickens and ate eggs everyday of his life. He is 84 and has no signs of heart disease. Trust me he would never seperate the yolk from the white.
Probably. And that's only because they worked out and ate well through out their lives. All those other 80 year olds are under Dr. care because they can't do any thing any more. Let alone kick themselves.
I smoke and eat egg Yolks and I dont care we all got to die some time
How do you smoke an egg yolk, and what's the point of eating it after you've smoked it?
Todd – awesome reply.
Todd, that's brilliant, I'm standing here at my desk laughing silently so hard! 🙂
Sounds pretty tasty to me. Do you use hickory in your smoker?
Yolks on you!!!
Death isnt the problem...its the dying part that sucks. WIth any luck you wont have to deal with it being from CHF-related issues so nobody has to watch your body drown in its own sauce.
I'm going to dry up some yokes and smoke them!
If you dry up their yokes and smoke them, what are those poor oxen going to use to pull the plow?
Rocky Balboa drank raw eggs and he is alive stll
It's great to see so many people with their feet on the ground in the face of such a lopsided "study"! I have a typical allergic reaction to most commercially produced eggs, but it's not the eggs. It's what they are feeding the chickens. When I stick to organic there is absolutely no allergic reaction whatsoever and I'm talking a couple of boiled eggs a day. (my cholesterol, BP, etc are fine, by the way). We wouldn't know unless a formal study with responsible reporting were done, but I firmly believe that the chemicals we are now unable to avoid in the food supply are at the bottom of many of the health problems we now face. Some cases of obesity, autoimmune disorders, digestive problems, can all be traced to these agricultural, processing and packaging chemicals. Just because something doesn't give you cancer within 6 months or cause a visit to the ER doesn't make it safe, it might just be underlying your misery.
The weaknesses of this study include the fact that it is retrospective and based on survey data, which is notoriously inaccurate. Further, it is an observational study and therefore there are many confounding factors that are not controlled for. Perhaps people who eat more egg yolks also eat more bacon, or have a generally poorer diet, or don’t exercise as much.
Apparently what the authors have shown (which is consistent with previous data) is that eating lots of eggs does not increase total cholesterol or bad cholesterol (LDL) nor does it decrease good cholesterol (HDL). In my mind this leaves the authors completely without a mechanism to explain a causal relationship between egg consumption and carotid plaque. This strongly suggests the association is not causal but is incidental or spurious – unless an alternate mechanism can be proposed and supported by evidence.
Apparently you can't expect a cnn author to have a basic understanding of methods or design
A HAP sponsored nutritionist told me recently that the cholesterol in egg yolks is not absorbed unless it is eaten with a saturated fat, i.e. it isn't the eggs but the bacon'n'eggs.
People have been eating eggs for thousands of years. These idiots need to study the effects that GMO products have on people and print that information for everyone to know. It's strange that health nuts don't live any longer than the rest of us.
Everything is "genetically modified" if it has DNA. You, me, the lettuce in my fridge, and everything else you eat short of Twinkies. Vegetables were selectively bred over hundreds of years. Even your "heirloom" veggies. Chickens were selectively bred from Indian jungle fowl. Any time something is bred for certain qualities, it is being genetically modified. It's just evolution. Doing it in a lab only speeds the process up. Not to mention GMO crops have already saved millions from starving across the globe. Unless you do your grocery shopping in a time machine and eat the earliest of amoebas, you're eating genetically modified food.
Just wait until they get to effects of second hand yolk.
That has me cracking up Brad, love it!
Awesome! Before you know it, we won't be able to eat eggs in public buildings.
The fact that they used subjects already showing some signs kind of makes the experiment flawed. I understand they want to see results faster, but there could already be a common factor causing it unrelated to eggs in the subjects they chose. I can't believe they didn't account for exercise though.
What a worthless article,it is a shame the medical community can puplish this non fact based trash.
Agreed. And people wonder "why is America obese?"
Um...but do the eggs coat my lungs with chemicals and grow cancerous cells? I eat 6 eggs a day, 3 whole eggs, 3 egg whites. My cholesterol is ridiculously low. As for the bodybuilder comments: um how many Mr. Olympias are still alive? I know one has just completed another movie at 60+. Sergio Olivia is 71, Larry Scott 73, Nubret is 72, Columbo, Ferrigno, Haney, Yates...um in fact all Mr. Olympias are still alive, and most are still active.
I eat several eggs or more a day. And have done that for years. My cholesterol actually comes up low (both LDL and HDL). I wonder what sort of curve that throws into their study?
Actually I think the study seems very flawed. You're making the assumption that these are typical results. The article states that they only choose people at high risk because they didn't feel they would be hard to show any visible results. It would seem that they already had a bias as to a desired outcome and were skewing the test to produce the data to tailor fit the anticipated data.
You could just as easily take a group of the same people and pick some common trait and attribute that to causing higher cholesterol levels. Maybe a better article would be that higher cholesterol intake among people with higher risks of elevated cholesterol levels leads to increased plaque build up, but no real correlation has been found in people who are not at higher risk. That I might buy into.
Just the other day I read another 'in depth scientific' study that found no correlation between eating several eggs per day and elevated cholesterol. It was more due to insulin resistance and the amount of free glucose in the blood stream, stored in the liver and muscle cells.
Maybe the two groups need to get together and hash that out before articles appear implying that smoking is healthier than eggs. Rubbish.
Well said. I remember reading articles that said eggs contain more good cholesterol than bad.
And what is more American than bacon and eggs on a Sunday morning. According to the article, as long as it's only 2 a week, you're OK.
Wow. Comparing Eggs to smoking in this fashion is dangerous. Cigarettes carry many other risks beyond plaque.
Eat eggs from "range free" chicken. They are NOT bad for you in anyway.
Eat mass produced eggs from sick chicken, why yes they ARE bad for you.
Big difference between the two.
"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."
Would whoever extrapolated the results of the study to the general population explain why they think no bias was introduced in the process? Do they claim that the observed sample is in fact representative of the general population? Or did CNN introduce that spin?
Living causes dying....first they tell it is bad ,next they tell you it is ok ,next year they tell you it is bad then two years later they say it is ok....now it is bad again....what the ........
A baseless study with no control group and based on survey results. It also surveyed people with a history of heart disease and didn't take into account important variables such as diet, exercise, and general lifestyle habits. How does this type of research make it onto the front page of CNN? Being a marketing research professional for many years, it is truly disheartening that this type of shoddy work is being mass marketed to the general public. Shame on CNN and Shame on London Health Sciences Centre's University Hospital.
Really. A few years back it was "NOPE, EGGS ARE OKAY!!!" now we're back to this? Really??? Ask the 90 year old farmer who ate 3 a day for 85 years how bad it is.
They focus on these innocuous things, it's pointless. Move and don't eat at McFastfood and you'll be as okay as your genetically dispositioned to be.
I have a lot of issues with this article. First and foremost is controlling for eggs consumed from free range chickens and those from conventionally raised chickens who live in cages pretty much their entire lives. Almost a completely different food and the study should have accounted for that. Also the median age for the control group was 61.5 and so a lot of their findings are based on participants stating how many eggs they've consumed on average for the last 20 years or so. I don't know about you, but I don't eat eggs by themselves and usually have them with some wheat toast, pancakes, sausage or bacon. That's just me. But I'm sure the researchers thought of that. So to isolate egg yolk as the culprit for increased arterial plaque seems presumptive. Eat real food in moderation and you'll be fine....and I don't need a study to tell me that.
A small percentage of the population cannot have cholesterol in their diet without it adversely affecting their blood cholesterol. This study took a group comprised exclusively of this type of person, and found that (surprise) dietary cholesterol was bad for them. Junk science at its finest.
This is a headline screaming for a one-word story: "No."
I've decided that there is a point where "quality of life" trumps (most of these) dietary issues. Eat better and move more. Enjoy what you're eating & be AWARE of what you are eating.
Its a shame that the medical community can continue to push anti-cholesterol and anti-saturated fat garbage that has no basis in fact. You want to know how people started to think that cholesterol was bad? They gave it to rabbits and they died. A rabbit is an herbivore! Of course rabbits were not meant to ingest cholesterol.
Pastured raised eggs are one of the most nutritious foods with plenty of omega 3s and other vitamins and minerals contained in the yolk. I'm sure eating your every day supermarket egg would likely not be that good for you, but it is not like the medical community actually cares about teaching people to be healthy.
This article is ridiculous. They find a linear relationship and try to forge some bogus causation relationship that has no basis in fact and is simply misleading.
yep, total garbage. beyond the rabbits, let's look at the Ancel Keys and the 7 country study, which was actually 22 but he threw out 15 because the data didn't fit the conclusion he wanted to write.
that was a fantastic video
Even ignoring all the issues with a retrospective study, which others have already pointed out, the premise of this article is still bull.
Even if they are right (and I'm not saying they are) and eggs are as bad for your cardiovascular heath as smoking, eggs still wouldn't be nearly as bad for you as smoking.
What's the first negative health consequence you think of for smoking? Lung cancer. Next? Emphysema. Next? Throat cancer, various other cancers, a ton of respiratory issue... It's a long list and most of it does not fall under the banner of cardiovascular health.
Until and unless they link eggs to the rest of all that too, no way you can compare eggs to smoking.
You missed one more thing, eggs do not transfer the bad effects like smoking. Passive smokers are more likely to get affected than active smokers.
if this was legit, i would certainly take it to hear and adjust accordingly. but this is weak. provide the data, or at worst the results from the abstract. diffrenence in plaque area was marginal between those who consumed eggs versus those who didn't. not to mention that the margin of error was greater than the measurement in TPA itself, so as to render the results almost meaningless.
furthermore, about a little info about the other pieces of their diet........ this is probably someone doing a study on heart disease and smoking and came to some other conclusion from the data. 100% of those polled in here are smokers. we won't know, though, because CNN chose to not do any actual reporting here. why do you insist on chasing headlines without looking at research? this does the entire population a diservice
Nonsense. Using the same principles of correlation as this study I could prove that people who get regular oil changes are skinnier than those who do not. There is no causality here. There are studies that show yolks are healthy...all one has to do is use Google...
A few years ago, there was another stidy that came out saying that eggs were founf to have 1/4 of the cholesterol than we originally thought. they keep going back and forth. You just can't trust these studies. The results vary depending on who is conducting (or paying for) the study. They are usually just trying to promote their own product or service. So these studies often yield results that are favorable to the organization conducting or financing the study.
More study of the week non-sense. Last time it was how the nutritional benefits of the yolks (choline, B-12) outweigh the small amount of saturated fat in the yolk. These articles are so unhelpful that no one can take them seriously. I guess at the end of the day we are all on our own now that serious journalism is dead.
This is a bad comparison, and sensationalized story. Eggs do not cause lung cancer, throat cancer, reproductive harm..etc..of course the article doesn't mention any of that.
This study is bogus. I eat eggs everyday, am over 40, and my overall cholesterol is at 180 down from 240, 3 years ago. That was before I changed my lifestyle. I use to eat cereal and be fat. Sugar and wheat = bad. Eggs = good.
Look this sounds like more government helping food companies sell their chemical garbage! Just more BS! Perhaps egg yokes are not the best foods, however in a proper real food diet 2 cups of veggies a day and 1 cup fruit staves off ANY and ALL food negatives. That is for real foods only. Man made foods are all poison and must be avoided. I am 6-3, 145, BP 110/70 most of time–chlost @ 99 most of time. I am disabled no exercise, so eat only real foods and enjoy eggs–I eat 3 jumbo eggs–usually scrambled, every other morning. Do not listen to this gov't tripe–Google Nutrition and get full story.
Oi vey. Here we go again. Eggs are bad for you. Eggs are good for you. Bad! Good! You know what? I'm gonna die of *something*. As long as I'm not outright stupid (smoking, drinking to excess, unfettered drug use, unreasonable risk), I think I'll just eat #$^%ing eggs once in awhile. We're off the deep end. You want something that will HELP, UNIVERSALLY? Force whole-food production and healthcare to be NON-PROFIT. Take the corporate profit motive out of keeping people ill.
All foods are good to eat. Smoking is not so bad either. The problem that we have created for ourselves is simply all the additives that we put into our foods (or into the animals that give us our food) to keep color, freshness, shape or whatever. Those chemicals are what is killing us by causing cancer and countless other maladies. Smoking (and second hand smoke, which has never been definitively proven to cause cancer) is singled out as the big bad monster for a simple reason. Just imagine what will happen to society if it were revealed that the foods we eat (and pretty well any product we use) cause cancers at such an alarming rate.
Why don't we all agree that everything from mother's milk to nuclear waste is toxic to the human body and stop these bs articles. One days medical school of fact is tomorrows erroneous error. Everyone of us will die one day. That is a fact. If you don't die of one thing, you will die of another.
This "new study" is a load of hooey. I'm 43 years old, and I've eaten egg yolks my entire life. I recently had a Coronary Calcium Scan performed on my heart, and my score came back a "1" on a range of 0 (No evidence of CAD) to 100 (Extensive evidence of CAD).
This "new study" is just some MD student's thesis, as he is trying to graduate. What a load of crap!
The point is that they followed over a thousand people. Your single experience says nothing about what anyone else might experience given the same behavior. But looking at thousands of poeple does show the odds of certain events happening. That's how research works.
@raindeer - READ the STUDY. actually, just the abstact, because why would public research (which probably used gov money) be free to read???
no one was 'followed'. this was, hey, tell me what you ate for the last 20 years. huge, ginormous difference.
also, look at the margin of error, which is larger than the actual measurement.....
Next week they'll tell you egg yolks are good for you. All talk. Be happy and live your life.
This study was reviewed by the skeptical blog sciencebasedmedicine.org who found some serious problems with it...not sure how this ended up on CNN. link to the article here: http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/eggs-and-atherosclerosis/
It is totally flawed to say this study shows that egg yokes are as bad as smoking because, for one thing, 'plaque buildup' is not the principal risk associated with smoking, and the biggest risks of smoking are other things like lung cancer. That's kind of like saying that cats are as almost as dangerous as cobras by comparing the size of their bites, without considering that cobras are poisonous and cats are not.
This past year we got our own chickens and I have eaten more eggs than I ever did in my entire life. Eggs fried. Eggs scrambled. Eggs in quiche. Eggs benedict for brunch. You name the dish, we've eaten it. Dozens and dozens of eggs this year. Last year my cholesterol levels was 238, with my LDL at 143 and the HDL in the 40s. I just had it tested, and the cholesterol level is 181, LDL is 101, and HDL is 57. Was it the eggs?? You decide.
And no, I've never taken cholesterol meds.
It's one study. They looked at a thousand people, which isn't that many to draw a conclusion from.. They didn't look at what else the subjects were eating with their eggs. I'll wait for another study or two that will hopefully be more complete and conclusive than this.
This happens all the time. Someone with a grant publishes premature findings from one small study in order to get a continuation of their grant money, so they don't have to go to work at a job outside their field. Six months later we read that another study has been done that found opposite results. An example among many was when we were warned that egg yolks were terrible for one's cholesterol. Then later another several studies came along that said, oops, actually eating a reasonable amount of eggs aren't bad for your cholesterol at all.
Poorly designed study with no control group and using subjects already showing heart disease. Call me when a properly done study surfaces.
But really, we're all going to die anyway, why deny oneself the joy of a nice omelet?
Monkeys love the yolks. Blacks love yolks too.... so blacks are monkeys! I b smart.
I bet the only s*xual contact you've ever had has been with your little sister, against her will, pinned against a barn door where all the white trash lives. If you want to be the racst sack of dog filth you are, can you at least leave a bigoted comment on a story that has something to do with race? It may not make you look smarter, but it will certainly be more relevant you pathetic excuse for a human being.
Cholesterol and saturated fat are precursors to the production of testosterone. NO wonder we have so many girlie men nowadays, they are told to avoid eating these things.
Eggs are Embryonic...if you could care less, you might eat embryos...if you respect life, you might not eat embryos and dead meat, after you realize that it's not the right thing to do...change is good...focus on doing the right thing for yourself and creatures around you...
You kill billions of life forms everyday in your body. Where do you draw the line?
By this time next year eggs will be good for us again.
I don't believe it. Folks have been eating yolks for ages. Only recently has this become an issue. Maybe it is due to all the garbage they feed to the chickens. Eat organic, range free, hormone free.
ppl, stop the insanity. YOU ARE GOING TO DIE! OF SOMETHING! go enjoy life and quit judging people on their lifestyles.
The amount of cholesterol that has been reported in egg whites over the past few decades is now heavily disputed. And on top of that, there's not even any evidence that dietary cholesterol correlates to cholesterol in the blood. That's how it works with fat- guess who's gonna be fatter between someone who eats a few servings of olive oil everyday but limits sugar intake, vs. someone who eats next to no fat but drinks 3 sodas a day? So why is it so bad when someone eats something that's high in cholesterol but otherwise has a lot of nutrition?