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. hooah86

    So that means if I skip breakfast, it's ok for us to smoke? I WILL assume there will be a surgeon general's warning stamped on eggs.....

    August 16, 2012 at 17:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Doodad

      Before long we will probably have to go outside to eat our eggs, so not to offend non-egg eaters and minor children against the dangers !!

      August 16, 2012 at 17:51 | Report abuse |
    • Jada

      oF Couse not y would it be ok to smoke

      August 16, 2012 at 18:10 | Report abuse |
  2. stacyochoaluna

    I eat eggs every single day and I am in perfect health. I also eat spinach, salads, rice and drink a lot of water and I exercise regularly. Eating eggs alone is not gonna cause heart disease, the rest of the things you eat and do matter too.

    August 16, 2012 at 17:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Yaa

      Instead of eating eggs put smoking cigarettes there, same result

      August 16, 2012 at 18:17 | Report abuse |
    • breed7

      You're proud of this? You eat spinach? Spinach inhibits the absorption of calcium. You eat rice? Rice has absolutely no nutritional value whatsoever. Drink a lot of water? Scientific studies have shown that drinking a lot of water has no benefit whatsoever, and could actually be harmful by creating an imbalance in your electrolytes.

      Since you don't seem to have a clue about anything, your statement that you are "in perfect health" means your brain is obviously not very healthy.

      August 16, 2012 at 18:17 | Report abuse |
    • Eggonyoface

      Nice work breed7, way to be a jerk

      August 16, 2012 at 18:30 | Report abuse |
    • ?um no....

      Breed7 – you're an idiot. Rice has plenty of nutritional value (selenium and magnesium) to name a couple. Even if spinach inhibits calcium absorption, it has significant nutrition values that outweigh this. And water.... Ah what's the point. You earned the C in health class so who cares. What a tool....

      August 16, 2012 at 18:34 | Report abuse |
    • kake79

      @breed7... NO nutritional value. What are you smoking? Is that why all those Asians are dying of malnutrition, because of all the rice they eat? Oh, wait... they aren't. That's because rice has fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals.

      August 16, 2012 at 18:43 | Report abuse |
  3. The Truth

    This is complete horse crap,I'm not going to go into my background, but, Eggs are one of the most nutrient dense foods on earth. Know if you have high cholesterol from eating other high cholesterol foods, then yes maybe you should just eat the egg whites until your cholesterol drops, and stop eating foods that are high in cholesterol.

    August 16, 2012 at 17:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. flycatcher

    "The problem is not with the egg but with the yoke." An egg without the yoke is not worth eating!!!!

    August 16, 2012 at 17:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Lobelia

    Hey, wait a minute! First of all, the article doesn't say what it is about eggs specifically that makes eggs problematic. I mean, if it's cholesterol, doesn't beef have plenty of cholesterol, too? How does eating eggs compare with eating beef? People are chowing down on burgers with wild abandon these days. Am I mistaken, or wasn't there just a few years ago some highly publicized study that essentially said eggs aren't nearly as bad for your heart as was previously thought? The upshot was that people were again being encouraged by nutritionists to feel free again to eat eggs in moderation (say, one a day) because they are a good source of protein. Remember, in the 1970s-1980s the widely held belief was that eating fat and cholesterol would raise your body's own cholesterol level. So then came this study a few years ago that changed many people's thinking, and people started eating steaks and eggs and not being overly concerned about fat and cholesterol intake. So does this new study once again change that? And is it limited to eggs and not meant to imply that eating steak or other cholesterol-laden foods is harmful as well? Or is there something specific to eggs? I hate these studies. Every couple of decades or so, people are encouraged by nutritionists to turn their nutritional habits on their heads and do the complete opposite of what they've been told to do. First it was eat lots of whole grains and less meat, then it was eat less grain and more protein, and now? I have no idea.

    August 16, 2012 at 17:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • BIG_PAPA

      First off what type of eggs where they using? Freerange or the garbage that they sell in bulk? That should have a major role in this, if the eggs came from the genetic mutant chickens or from freerange organic grain fed chickens. Either way I'm still going to eat my eggs.

      August 16, 2012 at 18:32 | Report abuse |
    • Josh

      It's irresponsible of CNN to even post this. The way this data was collected is about as inaccurate as it gets, the results don't actually show what the headline states, and the conclusions seem to ignore major factors like age. This kind of study is what scares people into eating things they shouldn't and not eating things that they should.

      August 16, 2012 at 18:43 | Report abuse |
    • kake79

      You're right. They keep changing what we should and shouldn't eat every year or two. I got sick of it a few years ago and now go with the "everything in moderation" approach coupled with "more natural is better" (i.e. butter vs. margarine but usually olive oil).

      August 16, 2012 at 18:48 | Report abuse |
  6. Toonces

    Not only are eggs very healthy, but cholesterol doesn't cause heart disease. This has been known for over a decade. This article is complete garbage. More propaganda to sell cholesterol-lowering medications to uninformed people.

    August 16, 2012 at 17:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Scaber

    " Researchers took into account sex, cholesterol, blood pressure, smoking, body mass index and diabetes." Does the author mean gender or "boom chicka wow wow" intercourse?

    August 16, 2012 at 17:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bob Brown

      Nouns have gender; people have sex.

      August 16, 2012 at 18:18 | Report abuse |
  8. tucsontom

    I'm sure of one thing, second hand eggs are worse than second hand smoke. Don't eat used food.

    August 16, 2012 at 17:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. 0rangeW3dge

    a study done some 40 years ago about a man in France who ate a dozen eggs a day that was tested proved to have lower blood cholesterol than average. It seems to suggest that your body adapts to its diet

    August 16, 2012 at 17:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dogzilla

      Really? Your argument is the result of a study of a single individual? I'm sure you can find a single person to "prove" any theory you want to demonstrate to the world. Wow...

      August 16, 2012 at 18:51 | Report abuse |
  10. wobbles

    I had a waitress at IHop trip and I think I got some second hand yolk. Is there a lawsuit there?

    August 16, 2012 at 17:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. MThomat

    Could you please tell us which drug company paid for this study, and if that drug company advertises on CNN? Thanks!

    August 16, 2012 at 17:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • LB122344

      That's a very good question. How could the egg have changed so much that instead of being good for us it is now dangerous to eat? Something smells bad about this so called finding. Half or more of the recommendations about food that are published are ignored by me. We have our mind and common sense, which is what directs my choices, not some flawed testing that changes every so often.

      August 16, 2012 at 18:06 | Report abuse |
  12. lroy

    The only time I eat the yoke is when I make scrambled eggs (for some reason I just can't flip the egg over). I always eat just the white when hard boiled but it's impossible to remove every last trace of yolk.

    August 16, 2012 at 17:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Ball Bag

    What a crock of s**t.

    August 16, 2012 at 17:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. OdC

    This is the most stupid "medical report" I have ever ever read in my life !!! One more of those 'commercially motivated' paid stupidities...
    People, if it is NOT publicized by "The New England Journal of Medicine " do not buy these fake stories from '15 minutes famous seeking' medical doctors (??!!!??)

    August 16, 2012 at 17:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Bob DeSimone

    For a complete debunk of this study see: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/are-eggs-really-as-bad-for-your-arteries-as-cigarettes/#more-30830

    August 16, 2012 at 17:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Murphy


    August 16, 2012 at 17:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Softship

    The article ispure tripe (will reading it cause atherosclerosis?)
    The only good things about this page are the great comments.
    I haven't had so much fun reading at CNN's site in LONG time!
    Thanks, guys!

    August 16, 2012 at 18:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. EggGuy

    '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.'

    So, if you are having cardiovascular issues and/or should be on a low cholesterol diet, avoid rich foods. A bit different then a general statement around egg yolks being almost as bad as smoking.

    ... and these folks wonder why CNN and researchers have a credibility problem!

    August 16, 2012 at 18:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Dr. Cholesterol

    These researchers obviously have not read the research that shows that cholesterol intake (eating cholesterol) is not related to high blood cholesterol. Eating FATS increases blood cholesterol. Sheesh, Michael Brown won the Nobel Prize for figuring this out, it is not like it is a secret.

    August 16, 2012 at 18:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. John

    Geez... I just read a fitness book saying that eggs aren't bad for you at all because of the protein for working out. Which "experts" should I believe??

    August 16, 2012 at 18:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • LB122344

      I say believe the one you read about in the book.

      August 16, 2012 at 18:44 | Report abuse |
  21. jim tom

    Pretty ludicrous article. So eggs can increase the risk of heart disease. Do they also cause lung disease????

    August 16, 2012 at 18:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Bill

    My 3 little girls, Wilma, Betty, and Little Peep (a bantam), would be very upset if the could read, but they do seem to understand when I talk to them, and Betty often joins me at the PC on my leg while I am working in the garage,,, so I will start with her, and she can tell the others. Wilma a Barred Rock, actually is the vocal one, so she will give me feedback.. Of course this article is COMPLETE CRAP, honestly, even though we have three chicks, I only maybe eat a few eggs a week, if that kills me so be it. Just have to laugh at this one.

    August 16, 2012 at 18:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Giacomo

    I wonder if big tobacco funded this study?

    August 16, 2012 at 18:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. mofo

    methinks its not the eggs but the stack of buttered pancakes, 4 slices of bacon and maple syrup with those eggs that might be causing you health problems.

    August 16, 2012 at 18:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. cpc65

    All those years of being mocked and ridiculed for not eating eggs. Whose laughing now, huh?

    August 16, 2012 at 18:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Softship

      We all are!

      August 17, 2012 at 04:54 | Report abuse |
  26. Rev.Christie Bliss Ley

    Like anything else, eat in moderation and you should be just fine. So many times they come out with these studies, then change their minds a few years later.

    August 16, 2012 at 18:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. BrandonC

    A new study shows that reading CNN.com may increase your stupidity by up to 70%. Performed by Johns Hopkins Department of Behavioral Science, the study asked people who were already deemed stupid whether they read articles at CNN.com on a regular basis. Of those interviewed nearly 7 out of every 10 had read an article on CNN's "News" website within the past year.

    August 16, 2012 at 18:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. MM

    I'll have 3 grass fed, free range, fresh eggs, over easy – fried in butter.

    August 16, 2012 at 18:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • TheBob

      Would that be a pine or oak casket? Oh hell, skip it and go with cremation.

      August 16, 2012 at 18:17 | Report abuse |
  29. martin

    nooooo not true

    August 16, 2012 at 18:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Smoking Chicken

    Which came first - the tobacco or the filter?

    August 16, 2012 at 18:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. eroteme

    O Happy Day! Another 'study'! It is amazing that now after 50 years, 100 years? we 'learn' that egg yolks may not be real good for us. I seem to remember this truth being mentioned quite often during a great number of past yearsr. The gurus who conducted this 'study' should try coming up with a 'study' that reveals something new. But alas, ithis may be beyond the realm of possibility.for these simpletons.

    August 16, 2012 at 18:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Major Tom

    I've known about the health hazards of egg yolk since age 10. I have a very wise and knowledgeable mother.

    August 16, 2012 at 18:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. su3385

    We don't have to worry here in NYC – Mayor Mikey will ban them.

    August 16, 2012 at 18:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. rick jolie

    does reading stupid articles increase brain disease?

    August 16, 2012 at 18:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. OEE

    Brilliant! Guess the yolk is on us!!

    August 16, 2012 at 18:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Don't believe it.

    This study is BS. Next week they'll say the exact opposite. Your body produces much more cholesterol than you eat. Making a claim like this with such a bizarre methodology is criminal.

    August 16, 2012 at 18:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. WD

    I'm not worried because next month there will be some other article saying egg yolks are OK to eat.

    August 16, 2012 at 18:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. jdoe

    This just in. A new study has found that eating tofu and spinach all day long is very good for your health.

    August 16, 2012 at 18:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. B Schmitt

    Eggs (including the yolk) are good for you. The culprit to heart disease is a sedentary lifestyle and eating too much!

    August 16, 2012 at 18:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. MCR

    Well, I guess the yolk's on us.

    But seriously folks, which cholesterol medication company funded this crap?

    August 16, 2012 at 18:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. jdoe

    I have no doubt the egg industry will come out with a study shortly contradicting this.

    August 16, 2012 at 18:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. NeutrinoMan

    Eat as many egg yolks as you want – the simple antidote is beer. Just drink one beer for every yolk consumed – it's scientific fact that alcohol thins the blood, and the increased fluids from the beer counteracts any cholesterol.


    PS. Beer also counteracts bacon.

    August 16, 2012 at 18:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dogzilla

      You might want to do a little research for your own health benefits. Drinking beer will raise your triglycerides. Whether that is a problem or not depends on your level of triglycerides. However, the raising of them DOES increase your cholesterol score since your cholesterol score is a combination of LDL, HDL, and triglycerides. Stating that the beer will counteract the cholesterol is ignorance.

      August 16, 2012 at 19:02 | Report abuse |
  43. Contrary Mary

    It is this kind of bullshi$ that drives me right up a wall. Someone got paid big money for doing this article and it is all LIES, LIES AND MORE LIES. I just lost my 97 year old brother-in-law and he ate 18 eggs each week! So there, take that and smoke that in your pipe because you have to be smoking something, to write and print this nonsense. OMG will it ever end?

    August 16, 2012 at 18:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Hmmm

    So, researchers surveyed a bunch of elderly people and asked them to remember what they ate? What was the time frame the questions were referring to? I can't remember what I ate last week! Plaque build up is a function of a lifetime behavioral decisions, not just a few years. Plus, where's the correlation to other foods high in fat and cholesterol? Did they ask how often these people ate at fast food places? I'd think a cheeseburger is worse than an egg...

    August 16, 2012 at 18:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. jC in Western U.S.

    The Center for Science in the Public Interest, fondly known colloquially as The Food Nazis, did a study on movie theater popcorn and made this statement:

    “A medium-sized ‘butter’ popcorn at a typical neighborhood movie theater contains more artery-clogging fat than a bacon-and-eggs breakfast, a Big Mac and fries for lunch, and a steak dinner with all the trimmings—combined!”

    I swore off movie theater popcorn.

    But you can have my eggs when you pry them from my cold dead fingers.

    August 16, 2012 at 18:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. pazke

    One of the problems is the eggs they were eating. If you feed a chicken nothing but corn and never let it run around then the ratio of omega 6's to omega 3's gets all out of whack. If you let it run around and eat bugs and greens as it evolved to do then the eggs are higher in good fats and lower in bad fats. All eggs are not created equal.

    August 16, 2012 at 18:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dogzilla

      Excellent point rooted in science. Thanks.

      August 16, 2012 at 19:07 | Report abuse |
  47. Paul

    Given the pathetic record of consistency of such studies showing correlations between eating particular foods and various diseases, I would approach this announcement very skeptically.

    Following are some quotes about this study that I found at U.S. News: (http://health.usnews.com/health-news/news/articles/2012/08/15/egg-yolks-almost-as-bad-for-arteries-as-smoking-study)

    Dr. Gregg Fonarow, a spokesman for the American Heart Association and professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, said the evidence for and against egg yolk consumption has see-sawed for decades.

    "Whether dietary egg consumption is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease has been controversial and previous studies have been inconsistent," Fonarow said. He said the jury remains out on the issue, pending further study.

    August 16, 2012 at 18:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. gager

    Under Obamacare eggs will become illegal. Dictator Obama has made it so.

    August 16, 2012 at 18:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. FloridaPoliticiansSuckBalls

    BOGUS. This study is so unscientific. You gave people who already had coronary heart disease a freaking survey to fill out. Are you kidding me? How about doing some real journalism CNN and report on the real cause of Coronary Heart Disease. A diet high in animal food products specifically red meat. There is overwhelming research to support this but SHHHHH! We don't want to put all those surgeons out of business. They need Coronary Heart Disease to feed their little chickens.

    August 16, 2012 at 18:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Jeff

    Why is it that chicken is good for your health and eggs are bad? Aren't eggs just liquid chicken?

    August 16, 2012 at 18:44 | Report abuse | Reply
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