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. Bacon and eggs rule !

    I CAN'T WAIT TILL MORNING.........eggs & bacon.....YUM.

    August 16, 2012 at 21:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • TODAY

      and a smoke after that...LOL

      August 16, 2012 at 21:36 | Report abuse |
    • Jose

      Stop! Don't throw those eggs out. I use the egg whites to brush over my tempra paintings. It gives them that antique cracked paint look. I have made millions like this.

      August 16, 2012 at 21:55 | Report abuse |
    • pockets

      Why did the chicken cross the road?

      August 16, 2012 at 23:14 | Report abuse |
    • pockets

      Next they will be attacking Miss Piggy....

      August 16, 2012 at 23:15 | Report abuse |
    • Johnny

      The study was done on a group of sick people. How lame is that? Now Doc, let's try it now on the general population, and see what happens. Dumb, dumb, dumb!

      August 16, 2012 at 23:27 | Report abuse |
    • Rafli

      Drinker, smokers, fat people are costly for the country, they should pay high taxes.

      August 16, 2012 at 23:29 | Report abuse |
    • psappho

      any doc who says the issue is with the yolk, not the egg -– omg - i thought yolks were part of the egg – yolks, whites, and shell. nutty article

      August 17, 2012 at 00:05 | Report abuse |
  2. Gary

    Ha i'm glad nobody is buying this bullcrap. I refuse to believe the people writing these articles are even human, their own families are being killed by fluoridated water and prescription drugs but here we are worrying about egg yolk lol. This is pathetic.

    August 16, 2012 at 21:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ryan

      ahhh the power of denial. I love it.

      August 16, 2012 at 22:30 | Report abuse |
    • YMCMB

      flouridated water is good, it prevents cavities you boob

      August 16, 2012 at 22:53 | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      Did anyone who is posting on here actually read the article? While I fully expect CNN to quote the most inflammatory and least accurate part of the article in order to grab your attention, I would think that someone would actually read the whole thing, or maybe even the actual study. It's a limited study, characterizing a certain type of clogging and makes recommendations for people in a risk category. The study doesn't actually say what CNN makes the headline. CNN takes things completely out of context and posts them to rile passions. Let's be a more informed society and a less reactive one.

      August 17, 2012 at 00:02 | Report abuse |
  3. tyler

    Eggs are bad for you. Eggs are good for you. Egg yolks are bad for you egg yolks are gonna attack you. Eggs are evil. Eggs are gonna convert you into a chicken and you will be a slave to the secret societies of the world and will follow their every command via tv, cell phone and other visual audio devices. Oh wait that has already happened. Never mind.

    August 16, 2012 at 21:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • MiraMcB-

      Eggsactly!!!! We've been hearing this nonsense for years – about everything from coffee to oranges to eggs and back again. They need to get together and make up their minds. Frankly, I don't think they have a clue what they are talking about. I eat 2 eggs, hash browns and two slices of bacon and a sliced fresh orange and two cups of coffee every blinkin' day of my life and my physicals are A+ according to my doctor.

      I think it's the "baloney" we have to watch out for.

      August 16, 2012 at 22:53 | Report abuse |
    • Michel

      LOL. Well said!

      August 16, 2012 at 23:01 | Report abuse |
    • James

      Here's the truth. Nothing is totally good or totally bad for you. Almost everything has both positive and negative effects. That's why moderation is the best advice.

      August 16, 2012 at 23:14 | Report abuse |
  4. Jessica

    I must say, I'm proud to see such informed comments on this article. Most people seem to understand, for various reasons, that this article, this study is absolute bunk. How the study was conducted is bunk, as well as the findings themselves. I noticed commenters seemed to understand that it's quite possibly other factors that caused such high cholesterol...(i.e. sugar and refined flour).

    August 16, 2012 at 21:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. SuSpiShus

    Whatever…my dad ate eggs 3-4 x /wk, 3 eggs at a time and he lived to be 88.

    August 16, 2012 at 21:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. ChurnTheNews

    What a pantload.

    August 16, 2012 at 21:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. whatabunchofidiot

    those commentators don't have ability to understand hard cold scientific studies, they definitely need to eat more eggs so that we have better species in the future. hahahahaha

    August 16, 2012 at 21:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. yo yo

    This study is mierda!

    August 16, 2012 at 22:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. asldkfj

    i don't know anyone who eats eggs every 10 minutes

    August 16, 2012 at 22:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. mommytoane

    Lies. Technically speaking. A person would have to eat a minimum of 2 eggs per day, every single day of the week to increase their risk of heart disease. Until I drop dead of a heart attack, I'm enjoying my eggs thank you.

    August 16, 2012 at 22:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. SteveG

    There is no such thing as a food that is "bad" for you. Everything, in relative moderation, is perfectly fine. And guess what? Even if you did your best to eat "healthy" like the expert-of-the-day recommends, you are STILL going to die! Hated to have to break that to some of you. Life, after all, is the #1 cause of death.

    August 16, 2012 at 22:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. APO_AE_09173

    Life is the leading cause of death in humans.

    Get over it for crying out loud–you are going to die. Live!!!

    (I hate eggs BTW but that is no reason to avoid them if you love 'em)

    August 16, 2012 at 22:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Yellow and White

    Stephanie always used to take out the yokes. I never understood it, given that she smoked, was overweight, had all sorts of other mental issues and was messed up on prescription drugs (not of her own making). Fish. So, you know what I do? I've cut out eggs for breakfast and only have then for lunch and dinner, thus cutting out the chances of a higher cholesterol diet at breakfast by eating yokes. I now eat boiled eggs for lunch and friend ones in the evening. I've found liver and onions with a healthy portion of lima beans and mashed potato works best at 7am.

    August 16, 2012 at 22:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. avid reader

    Let's see, 1200 people in the study out of how many people on the planet? It is almost impossible to have a study that doesn't have bias in it. Eat all things in moderation,, get off your butt and exercise, and quit worrying yourself to death over some stupid study from some group of researchers who need to publish or perish and you'll be healthier and happier!

    August 16, 2012 at 22:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Nicole

    Can we stop treating single studies in niche journals that find correlations as news worthy announcements? The is far from definitive, and there need to be many more studies done before we can exam if their is a causal effect.

    We already do not recommend egg consumption for this population. The study author should be well aware that you cannot take this study and extrapolate to the larger population. Eggs have known health benefits. We don't KNOW if there is an increased risk. I am young woman of childbearing age with good blood pressure, good cholesterol, and passed an echocardiogram with flying colors last year. The nutrients in eggs may actually be a net benefit for me, especially if I was to get pregnant. And they are relatively low calorie.

    Having said that, I only have eggs a couple times a month, I tend to only like them in an omelet with bell pepper and tomato or spinach and feta, and that's a lot of work, heh.

    August 16, 2012 at 22:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. chris


    so do who i believe??

    August 16, 2012 at 22:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Russell

    Wait...are they yolking?

    August 16, 2012 at 22:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Michel

      You "crack" me up 😉

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

    When are people going to figure out? Outside of smoking, edentary lifestyles and bad genetics are the leading cause of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Our ancestors ate butter, beefsteak, eggs and w whole variety of foods that are now bad for us. The difference is that they worked sun up to sun down to bring in the harvest. Today, we spend much of our time seated in front of computer screens exercising the gray muscle upstairs than the red muscles in our legs and arms.

    Consider this...if everyone took an hour each day to take a gentle walk, obesity rates would be cut in half. If those people were to raise their heart rate even 20% during their walk, it might even be quartered. With decreasing rates of obesity, you would see a decrease in both heart disease and diabetes, which go hand-in-hand with obesity.

    It's also about moderation. Have your egg, but also have oatmeal and a banana. And then go take your dog for a walk. It's good for botht he body and the mind, and your dog will love you for it.

    August 16, 2012 at 22:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rafael t


      But that would not sell news. News organizations do not report news anymore-they are in the content-selling business, and the more absurd the content, the more it will sell.

      They are the ones responsible for the current extremism in our culture.

      August 16, 2012 at 22:50 | Report abuse |
  19. C

    What a bunch of booochit...yeah sure, eggs are bad for you, the government should genetically modify them to keep us safe.....ridiculous, whats the agenda of this?

    August 16, 2012 at 22:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Dutch

    Seriously. Idiots

    August 16, 2012 at 22:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Matt

    Yes. So let's give cholesterol to people who already have poor cardiovascular health, see what happens, and call it a study.
    Giving bananas to a person who is pre-diabetic probably isn't a good idea either.
    Isn't this stuff common sense?

    August 16, 2012 at 22:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Rafael t


    CNN made a joke!

    August 16, 2012 at 22:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. toobad4u

    ooooo goodie... mayor doomburgh can ban something else now........

    August 16, 2012 at 22:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Joe Smith

    At least they did point out, late in the article, and with no particular emphasis, some of the major weaknesses in the way this study was conducted. And, to my mind, those weaknesses were severe enough to cast doubt on the conclusions that they headlined. I don't need to get emotional or make stupid comments just to say that until I see a study using a contrast group, and not pre-selected with a bias toward the desired result, I'm going to ignore this one.

    August 16, 2012 at 22:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Mira Rao

    Reblogged this on Booze, Butter & Balance and commented:
    We all know that egg yolks are full of cholesterol and fat, but I find studies like these to be problematic because the findings don't agree with common sense. There are scores of recent studies that make intuitive sense, like the ones finding that red wine and dark chocolate are good for your health. This makes sense to me because people have been eating chocolate and drinking red wine for centuries! They've also been eating egg yolks for centuries. The study makes interesting points, but the popular comparison between eating egg yolks and smoking seems to be purposeful sensationalism.

    August 16, 2012 at 22:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Lara Golan

    This is asinine.

    August 16, 2012 at 22:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. david

    Are eating eggs as bad as smoking?


    August 16, 2012 at 22:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Sheryl

    The yolk is where most of the nutrients are. I hate all these articles one day this is the best for you the next its the worst. Don't eat them every day and you will be fine.

    August 16, 2012 at 23:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Bud

    Remember, the data came from self-reporting. How many eggs do *you* eat each week? How many did you eat last year?

    August 16, 2012 at 23:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. ready

    Cool are we going to have the nanny state put disgusting images on packs of eggs now?

    August 16, 2012 at 23:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. paz

    crack open a beer, like up a cigarette, and slurp down an egg yolk. Live for the moment man!

    August 16, 2012 at 23:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. L

    These studies get stupider by the day...............nothing wrong with eggs.....................eat them in good health

    August 16, 2012 at 23:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Penny Nickels

    The incredible, edible (and apparently deadly) egg...
    What's next? A study showing that drinking milk causes stomach cancer?

    August 16, 2012 at 23:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. chan

    I..cant believe this horribly bad and incorrect story has now reached mainstream...Will at least cnnfail stream.

    August 16, 2012 at 23:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. mccccc

    This is a load of nonsense. There have actually been studies where eating egg yolks regularly decrease heart problems. Your body produces the vast majority of cholesterol itself and high cholesterol foods have almost no effect on your blood cholesterol levels. The main factor is eating a high fat diet not eating eggs.

    August 16, 2012 at 23:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. bigaugie

    Some anti-egg lobbyist group has got to be paying Henry big bucks to publish this stuff. That's the only explanation for all the fallacies the article contains. See this: http://www.livestrong.com/blog/do-eggs-cause-heart-disease/

    August 16, 2012 at 23:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. mccccc

    I would be willing to be that these same people who were eating eggs regularly were cooking them in margarine and eating them with bacon and sausages. There is no link between high cholesterol foods and heart disease. This is nothing more than poor science. I guarantee you this study is full of holes.

    August 16, 2012 at 23:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. richard russell

    Egg yolks do have a high amount of cholesterol. Reference this: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cholesterol/HQ00608/. If you are fairly healthy (who also exercises and has a good diet), 3-4 eggs per week should be OK for you. However, if you regularly do the Big Macs and such, word of caution. This is education and not dictating what you must do. It's your choice and it's up to you how you take this data. If you have other health risk factors, (smoking, sedentary lifestyle, comorbidity, etc), take care. Keep an open viewpoint and be always open for paradigm shifts/behavior changes if you want to lead a longer and healthier life. The choice is yours.

    August 16, 2012 at 23:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Danny dino

    I tend to fix my eggs with the ratio three whites to one yolk, and I don't feel I miss any flavor-egg whites are delicious if you boil the egg, and discard the yolk..I love boiled egg whites on the 35 calorie/ per slice bread, and spray butter...dont laugh, it's very good and a great sub for breakfast–use the egg whites minus the yolk in baking many things( esp from a box mix) and try applesauce instead of the oil and butter... (I won't name names, unless I were to get a big coupon/payoff for it.)

    August 16, 2012 at 23:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. JJ

    no one gets out alive anyway. I will make a sacrifice and eat more eggs so that the author of this article can have more shredded wheat and prune juice for breakfast... becides, bacon and shredded wheat doesn't sound as good.

    August 16, 2012 at 23:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Draxta

    Life is a fatally contracted sexual disease. You're going to die in the end so crack a few eggs, don't listen to the BS and have some fun.

    August 16, 2012 at 23:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Jrh

    What a load of crap. Eggs don't produce carbon monoxide, they don't have tar and nicotine in them, the don't cause hypertension, and they don't cause lung cancer. This is just more sensationalist scare tactics, not science and certainly not journalism. Lets see the figures for how many people die from heart disease who are on ststin drugs vs those who aren't. You'll be amazed....

    August 16, 2012 at 23:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Danny

    I wonder if it depends how the eggs are prepared as if it were fried, sunny-side up, scramble, etc. I eat raw eggs in my morning protein shake. Does this mean I should give it up eggs?

    August 16, 2012 at 23:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. morlly morados

    you know, im quite confused. some studies said that eating an egg once a day is good for the health coz the cholesterol in the egg yolk is a good cholesterol......hmmmm.....quite confusing really.....

    August 16, 2012 at 23:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. darbea

    Living will eventually lead to death. Ain't nothing you can do about it.

    August 16, 2012 at 23:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. cari

    50+ and eat several eggs each week. Have high blood pressure controlled by meds. but my ECHOcardiogram showed nothing. Have the heart and arteries of a twenty year old. Claims de-bunked. Each individual is different. Studies MEAN NOTHING.

    August 17, 2012 at 00:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. mark vance

    BS, I eat 4-7 a week and my DR says I'm fine. I'm 52 soon to be 53.

    August 17, 2012 at 00:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. PS Aztec

    wow, just mind boggling. Once again, the medicos are focusing on the wrong thing. So what does cause plaque buildup? The #1 culprit is Sugar. Sugar attaches to proteins in a process called glycation. This sugar molecule then attaches to the arterial wall. The protein keeps moving, due to blood pressure, and when it moves, that sugar molecule causes a little rip in the artery. That rip, or fissure, then gets infected. Along comes your white blood cells to fight the infection. However, you still have the fissure. You need to repair the fissure. What repairs the fissure? LDL Cholesterol. Blaming LDL Cholesterol for arterial plaque is like blaming a firefighter for causing afire.

    Other cause is refined carbs. We eat a ton of that in the USA. Saturated Fat is not the enemy! You can look at charts over the years about american's diet. What food group's consumption has increased over the last 30 years? Carbohydrates! What in increased over the last 30 years? Our waist lines! Obesity is rampant, especially in Mississippi, where over 34% of the people are obese, which is a BMI over 30. What do they eat a lot of down there? Comfort food such as mac and cheese, breads, fried stuff, etc.

    Educate yourself. Go to experience Life Magazine and google "A Big, Fat Mistake." You'll learn about the lipid hypothesis and are two different ways types of LDL Cholesterol, type A & B. Type B is what affects cholesterol? Type B. What affects type B? Carbs, refined carbs.

    Google Dr. David Diamond's presentation called, "How Bad Science and Big Business Created the Obesity Epidemic." Very good. On YouTube too.

    On YouTube, watch Dr. Lustig's presentation, "Sugar, the Bitter Truth."

    Meat consumption is down in the USA, yet obesity is rising, the numbers of new diabetics are rising? Why? Because we are told to eat too many refined carbs like breads, pastas, rice, potatoes, sugar. Get yourself free! I did. Down 114lbs. Total Cholesterol is 151 and have a hdl/ldl ratio of 3.9!

    August 17, 2012 at 00:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. blake

    CNN news flash: Egg yokes cause lung cancer. Warnings soon to be displayed prominently on egg cartons.

    August 17, 2012 at 00:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Yes, I Am

    You people have made me very hungry.
    Tambien, VIVA, VIVA TEXAS.

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