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. David

    Did the study also take into account whether the patients ate other high cholesterol foods throughout the day?

    August 17, 2012 at 00:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lawrence

      Or the frequency of the egg breakfast.

      August 17, 2012 at 01:04 | Report abuse |
    • shawn l

      No. The study is completely bogus and flawed from what I read on the british websites. Small groups. Doesn't take in other factors, diet, drinking, etc.

      August 17, 2012 at 02:00 | Report abuse |
    • Aurelia Boermans

      tomorrow we'll read about a study telling us exact the opposite. Such types of study are just irresponsible!

      August 17, 2012 at 06:53 | Report abuse |
    • Zoey

      Did the study take into account how you cooked the eggs, like in butter or poached or hard boiled? Did the study take into account if the eggs with farm fresh from organic chickens or where the eggs "fortified" with a bunch of crap chemicals?
      Ridiculous article.

      August 17, 2012 at 07:33 | Report abuse |
  2. stormkite

    It is generally true that living leads to dying. Beyond that it's kind of catch-as-catch-can.

    August 17, 2012 at 00:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Adam

      So, cigarettes are cool then?

      August 17, 2012 at 01:20 | Report abuse |
    • Smukers

      Yes, whatever you do in life, good or bad, guaranteed, you will soon be dead.

      August 17, 2012 at 01:34 | Report abuse |
    • Aurelia Boermans


      August 17, 2012 at 06:55 | Report abuse |
  3. Epidi

    I lightly sautee some onions and sweet peppers then add 2 eggs, beaten. I then put a little cheese on top & let it melt. Side of toast and bacon or sausage. Mmmmmm! I may die – but I'll have had breakfast heaven.

    August 17, 2012 at 00:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • paganguy

      Sounds great, I'll be right over to have some.

      August 17, 2012 at 01:25 | Report abuse |
    • john

      Mmmmmm..... Bacon!!!!

      August 17, 2012 at 05:58 | Report abuse |
    • jzaks

      Sounds great. My favorite is two fried eggs in between pancakes and syrup. I started eating this when a child, and am now in my middle 60's. I am sure I may drop over dead at any time due entirely to this breakfast, but hey, I sure have enjoyed it over the years.

      August 17, 2012 at 06:54 | Report abuse |
  4. me

    I also heard that alcohol actually raises your good cholesterol...so have a tall screwdriver with your eggs in the morning and you will be fine..........

    August 17, 2012 at 00:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • PantyRaid

      My mom has had me do that since I was six years old.

      August 17, 2012 at 01:32 | Report abuse |
    • phishkiss

      Its true, I have a doctor friend almost done with residency, she says its little known that alcohol cleans out your pipes, but damages other things, she has done numerous autopsies and stated that even though their liver, kidneys, and pancreas shown sign of damage and disease their arteries and hearts were as "clean" as a six year olds.

      August 17, 2012 at 01:43 | Report abuse |
    • phishkiss

      oh, by their I meant alcoholics

      August 17, 2012 at 01:44 | Report abuse |
  5. Rachael

    "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." They say themselves the effect is unmeasurable in the general population, so its perfectly fine unless you already have heart disease and are elderly.

    August 17, 2012 at 00:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mike

      Nice catch. Which really begs the question – who funds this kind of "research"? And how does this count as news?

      August 17, 2012 at 00:38 | Report abuse |
    • Eli

      So I'm studying for the LSATS... Just gotta say way to spot the flaw in the argument...

      August 17, 2012 at 01:12 | Report abuse |
    • Adam

      Unmeasurable in the time of the study does not mean unmeasurable.

      August 17, 2012 at 01:16 | Report abuse |
  6. Flamespeak

    Always remember, if the phrase 'Studies show' or a published scientific finding are cited, then odds are incredibly high that the source of your information is flawed and shouldn't be mentioned.


    Enjoy this article about it.

    August 17, 2012 at 00:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Adam

      Except your citing a peer reviewed article yourself

      August 17, 2012 at 01:18 | Report abuse |
  7. RunGainesville

    Fired! Everyone!

    August 17, 2012 at 01:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. OdC

    This "medical report" is 100% pure HORSE CRAP !!! Shame on you CNN !!

    August 17, 2012 at 01:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Adam

      Keep eating animal products, die of heart disease. Shame on YOU.

      August 17, 2012 at 01:19 | Report abuse |
  9. curt

    All I know is I switched to mainly egg whites a long time ago.

    August 17, 2012 at 01:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dave

      That's ALL you know? You don't know anything else? Holy lord you must lead a blissful life.

      August 17, 2012 at 02:04 | Report abuse |
  10. paganguy

    Eating food may kill you.
    Not eating food will kill you.

    August 17, 2012 at 01:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Dylan

    Doesn't say who funded the study. That's the first question to ask. Remember when study after study said that eggs were bad for your health??? Those studies were funded by the cereal industry. Ask the right questions.

    August 17, 2012 at 01:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Pablo

      Egg Beaters sponsored the study..

      August 17, 2012 at 07:38 | Report abuse |
  12. zak

    pedestrian science at its finest...

    August 17, 2012 at 01:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Frit Hohenheim

    What is it with people wanting us to be afraid of everything, Terrorists, second hand smoking, egg yolk, bacteria, its like America is turning into a nation of wussies. Get over it people, you are going to die from something eventually, may as well be something you enjoy

    August 17, 2012 at 01:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Smukers


      August 17, 2012 at 01:32 | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      I have never known anyone who has suffered from: e coli, trichinosis, salmonella, botulism, writers cramp, post nasal drip, waxy yellow buildup, carpal tunnel, junk mail, pop-up ads or lyme disease. The media thrives on fear based content, much like the republicans.

      August 17, 2012 at 02:09 | Report abuse |
  14. ADoctor

    This is a retrospective study, and it's a questionaire so it's also prone to recall bias. This article should be taken with a grain of salt. the data needed to be validated. Also I have yet to examine the odds ratio, and confidence interval if i have time to look at the original article.

    I wouldn't write it off but I would not hold this as gospel either. And yes, I am a real internal medicine doctor...

    August 17, 2012 at 01:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • davidcharleswilliams

      The cholesterol's bad enough, now you wanna add salt?

      August 17, 2012 at 08:11 | Report abuse |
  15. Debbie Jennings

    I eat 2 eggs each morning and my cholesterol readings last week were better then ever. This is just another piece of garbage talk to keep somebody in work.

    August 17, 2012 at 01:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Eggs Are Good For You

    What happened to the study that egg white counter acted the yoke?

    August 17, 2012 at 01:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Pete NYC

    My uncle is 85 years old and drinks 3 raw eggs (including yolks) every day for last 50 years. He also smokes. He is strong and healthy and looks younger than his 60 years old daughter. Same story with my grandmother. She died when she was 88. She ate 2-3 eggs every day. I guess every doctor or professor has something stupid to say now, they all want some media attention. Eat less fatty, processed foods and cakes and exercise!!!

    August 17, 2012 at 02:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Joseph Carlson

    But is a life without Hollandaise a life worth living?

    August 17, 2012 at 02:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Just Sayin

    Is it just me or does it seem like at this point in our evolutionary cycle we cannot eat, drink, or smoke anything that will not cause some kind of harm to our bodies? I mean we are down to water and ....yup just waiting for the day that water can cause cancer.

    August 17, 2012 at 02:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • OrionStyles

      No, most water is full of Fluoride.

      It is bad for you.

      August 17, 2012 at 02:57 | Report abuse |
  20. G

    Anyone who takes the time to truly consider this study's scientific integrity can easily laugh it off as poor science. But therein lies the problem- there aren't many of us. The notion that egg yolks are unhealthy, let alone "worse for you than cigarettes," is unfounded and systematically flawed. Clearly, the study was either poorly constructed unintentionally, forcing this team of scientists to scramble for a convincing argument that would merit funding for further studies, or poorly constructed intentionally, which would reek of a biased funding source (probably one with connections to cnn). Regardless, the end result is troubling- not because it's wrong, but rather because its fallacy will go undetected by the majority of the public. Plant a seed of doubt and the public will shy away accordingly. The small minority of educated, nutritionally-conscious people who are able to think rationally and objectively about issues like these are not the concern, instead it's that vast majority who skimmed this article, and will walk away from it with a skewed perspective on cholesterol and eggs that concern me. The propagation of misinformation is a dangerous thing. My reason for posting this is to simply add to the sheer number of unconvinced readers. Enough compelling comments and maybe we can plant our own seed of doubt.

    August 17, 2012 at 02:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Cholesterol is bad

      G, your comment concerns me way more than anything in this article. The study is nothing special and has many weaknesses; however, cholesterol is still unhealthy and causes heart disease. The overwhelming body of scientific evidence shows that cholesterol is incredibly unhealthy. You can ignore this all you want and think that you are right but you can't change all of the good scientific research that shows how unhealthy cholesterol is.

      August 17, 2012 at 04:42 | Report abuse |
    • lejaune

      Cholesterol is not bad. In fact, our bodies or any animal bodies can not function without cholesterol.

      August 17, 2012 at 07:25 | Report abuse |
    • G

      In response to the user with the name "Cholesterol is Bad"......please merit your opinion with scientific support. As someone who works in the field of nutritional research, I'd be very interested to read the research you're talking about. Allow me to point you in the direction of some actual science rather than simply trying to base my argument on a phrase like "the overwhelming body of scientific evidence." I look forward to your response.


      August 17, 2012 at 16:09 | Report abuse |
  21. jdoe

    So which is it? The chicken or the egg?

    August 17, 2012 at 02:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. OrionStyles

    Seriously? Worse then smoking? Come on....

    Stop eating high-glycemic foods, like wheat.
    They cause diabetes and overeating by spiking, and then crashing your blood sugar.

    That is where the studies and battles should be fought.

    August 17, 2012 at 02:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. thethe123

    Just more pyscho-modern health freakism.

    Seriously? I eat eggs for breakfast, my parents eat eggs for breakfast, my grandparents ate eggs for breakfast. Last I checked, none on this list suffered anything from eggs. Eggs were one of the main food sources of my grandparents, who lived in a rural village on a farm. There was also lots of cheese and bread and they lived to their 90s. Not to mention they loved the egg yolk(one way we make an egg is to hardboil it till the whites are cooked but the yolk stays slightly liquidy, which we then crack the egg from the top and eat the yolk before the rest of the egg. Tastes pretty good)

    There are many variable factors in one's health. A combination of their environment,stress level,exercise,nourishment and probably more other things(genetics for example). It's too inaccurate to simply claim egg yolk can be bad for someone because many things can affect it.

    August 17, 2012 at 03:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Dino

    I bet we all know someone who eats bacon and eggs every morning and drinks soda and smokes all day. They must have ateries of steel. 1

    August 17, 2012 at 04:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. william

    You Ignorant little fools. Eating anything factory farmed on the diet those animals are fed WILL kill you all. I am so blessed to be able to raise my own chickens on a "range" diet, and hunt all the deer My family can eat. Now I am going to go drink a breakfast of 12 egg yokes for the next month to celebrate it! Factory farmed foods will have "the yoke on you!"



    P.S. DON'T ever take up smoking that is sure to kill ya'

    August 17, 2012 at 05:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Gian Basi

    The doctor is a Jew what a surprise I'm near 30 and in better shape today then ten years ago!

    August 17, 2012 at 05:30 | Report abuse | Reply
    • VladT

      I know plenty of Jewish people who eat eggs, so don't know where you're going with the argument

      August 21, 2012 at 08:47 | Report abuse |
  27. iHaveID

    1960s eggs are good for you, 1970's: eggs are bad for you, 1980s: good, 1990s: bad, 2000: good, 2010, bad. I suspect there will be a marketing campaign for a new cholesterol free egg product any day now.

    August 17, 2012 at 05:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. anon

    I eat egg yolks WHILE smoking. GTFO.

    August 17, 2012 at 05:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Ron

    I eat 2 fried eggs EVERY day for the past 35 years.
    And a bunch of saturated fat too.

    This article is a Big Pharma ad – "Don't Eat Eggs – Eat Pounds Of Our Lipitor!

    August 17, 2012 at 05:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. John

    This is complete BS. Nothing you eat causes plaque in your arteries, your body takes what you eat and converts it to what ever it thinks you need. Smoking however causes the inner walls of your arteries to become inflamed damaging the artery and provides a spot for plaque build up.

    August 17, 2012 at 06:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Tom

    Of course egg yolks are bad for you – the dead giveaway is that they taste good. I suspect the only healthy diet consists of eating nothing but steamed brussel sprouts on a bed of broom straw lightly seasoned with ashes.

    August 17, 2012 at 06:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Grahame Rhodes

    The other day in a restaurant I watched a family come in to eat. They were all so grossly fat that they waddled in single file.
    I was curious as to what they would eat. They all had the same thing extra large helpings of fish and chips. But here's the kicker they all had mega large glasses of Coke or Pepsi with refills all round. Then they waddled out Father Mother and two kids. they were huge and took two tables. ................................Don't drink pop with grease.

    August 17, 2012 at 06:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. FactChecker

    Ok - IGNORING CANCER, egg yokes are as dangerous as smoking.

    August 17, 2012 at 06:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. 0Patrick0

    The guy is a neurologist! What's he doing researching cardiological problems ?

    August 17, 2012 at 06:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Allen Y.

    What a horrible study, AND how horribly irresponsible is it for the media like CNN to give these types of study airtime but yet studies that have shown no effect from egg consumption are typically brushed to the wayside. This study and article is basically saying that correlation is the same as causation.

    August 17, 2012 at 06:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Quid Malmborg in Plano TX

    Glad I'm down to half-a-dozen yolks per day now. Gotta kick the habit. E-yolks, anyone???

    August 17, 2012 at 06:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. fdgds


    August 17, 2012 at 06:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. steve1010

    Reading these stupid articles is just as bad as smoking and eating the yolks at the same time.

    August 17, 2012 at 06:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Conor.

    WAKE UP....This is a stupid scare story. Eggs have a trace amount of Chloresterol. The issue here is frying eggs in animal fat or vegtable oil whihc makes them very high in chloresterol. Egg yolks are a great source of protein contain no harmful ingredients.

    August 17, 2012 at 06:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Me2!!!

    Ohh no I Think Im... Passing – had an egg mcmoffing... Egg are evil... Im dead lol.
    Ohh no Im at work… The Dr said that too much stress will kill me… Im dead (again)

    August 17, 2012 at 06:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. boatvolt

    Living is the leading cause of dying...

    August 17, 2012 at 07:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Jaclyn

    This article sounds so ridiculous that I had to find the journal article before responding to your message. unfortunately I couldn't get my hands on the full paper but I did read the abstract.  Here's my opinion...

    First, this was a retrospective observational study of people who were already at risk for vascular disease (therefore, probably not generalizable to people like you and I who are at low risk).  Participants attending a vascular prevention clinic were asked to complete a survey about their history of smoking and egg yolk consumption (number of packs of cigarettes per week times the number of years, and number of egg yolks per week times the number of years).  This type of study design relies on participants accurately reporting their consumption, it also cannot prove causation because it is retrospective and they cannot control for (and it doesn't even look like they tried to control for) other confounding factors.  For example, many people who consume eggs consume them with butter and bacon and/or sausage which are high in saturated fat (which we know has a much bigger impact of plaque buildup than dietary cholesterol).  Saturated fat (found only in meat, chicken, high fat dairy and processed) and trans fats (processed foods made with hydrogenated oils) are way more influential on plaque building.  As far as I can tell, the study didn't assess intake of these foods.  Therefore, they cannot definitively say that it was the egg yolks that caused plaque build up.  All they can say is there was an association and that there may in fact have been some other factor that these people had in common the affected the results and that wasn't assessed for.

    Having said all of that, eggs are fairly high in cholesterol.  There is no recommended amount of dietary cholesterol for otherwise healthy people, but it is recommended that people who have high cholesterol (or take cholesterol lowering medications) limit their dietary cholesterol to 200 mg/day.  Because one large egg yolk contains 195 mg, it's usually recommended that people with high blood cholesterol limit the yolks to four per week.  What is absolutely recommended, for all people with or without high blood cholesterol, is to limit the amount of saturated and trans fats in the diet.  Meaning limiting high fat meats and dairy and relying more on low fat dairy or alternatives, lean meats and poultry, fish and vegetarian sources of protein like legumes and nuts/seeds (which have no saturated fats).  

    Basically, this study isn't going to change recommendations any time soon.  Unfortunately, what ends up in the media is often misleading and sensationalized.  Eggs are a great source of complete protein and half of the protein and almost all of the vitamins and minerals are found in the yolk.  I eat probably 4-6 eggs per week but get very little saturated and trans fats because we don't eat much meat, choose lean meats when we do, eat only low fat milk/yogurt and use very few processed foods that are sources of saturated and trans fats.   I just had my yearly physical and my first 'adult' blood work, including cholesterol levels.  My LDL ("bad") cholesterol was so low the lab couldn't even calculate it.   

    High intake of saturated/trans fats –> increases LDL cholesterol –> increase the risk of plaque build up
    High intake of cholesterol has not been shown to have a significant impact on LDL cholesterol and therefore plaque build up

    Read Nutrition Facts labels and choose foods with less than 2g of saturated fat and 0g trans fats per serving.

    Hope that is helpful and eases some of your worries  🙂


    August 17, 2012 at 07:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Cath

      It is my understanding that two of three researchers were tied to "statin" industries, who have a vested interest in pushing statins to folks with high cholesterol. I wonder if this study is an pharmaceutical industrial scare tactic to continue making our society on depending on them to increase their revenue. I think CNN bears to investigate this study more to see if there really are "vested interests" at work.

      August 17, 2012 at 08:09 | Report abuse |
  43. James Blond

    According to the Voralberg Health Monitoring and Promotion Programme, men of all ages and women over fifty, with very low cholesterol were likely to die of cancer, liver diseases, and mental diseases. Some people think that there is actually an inverse link between cholesterol and health.

    August 17, 2012 at 07:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. VET


    August 17, 2012 at 07:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. trek820

    I have also read that eating bacon is like smoking a box of Havanas.

    August 17, 2012 at 07:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • AB

      Hah! That's funny.

      August 17, 2012 at 07:45 | Report abuse |
  46. Jimbo

    That's it...Kiss in at IHOP and Denny's...Who's with ME?!!

    August 17, 2012 at 07:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Milton Platt

    I have also read about studies which say that the cholesterol you eat is a minor factor compared to what your own body produces and that eggs are good for you. Which studies are more valid???????

    August 17, 2012 at 07:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Jorge

    Tell you what WILL kill you, losing your peace of mind and your soul to the fackless, endless, inane drivel of the world, driven by greed and incompetence. My wife's grandmother lived a simple life, filled with faith and love for her extended family, and she gave about as much importance to all the sensationalist fluff she read in the news as I would give to the worms under the rocks in my backyard, she ate an egg from the hens raised in her back yard every day, roast pork when her son or daughter brought it to her, smoked two cigarettes half way since she was a seamstress at 17, was zaftig in her youth and lived to a reluctant 99. She gave little importance to the fey nature of her fellow man and was the most kind and gracious little old lady I have ever known. Maybe THAT'S the secret to old age.

    August 17, 2012 at 07:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jen

      Amen!!! My dad has had an egg every day for the last who knows how many years....with bacon *or* side pork (uncured bacon) and that man is 90. And still going strong and farming every day. Rock on, my Daddy!!

      August 17, 2012 at 07:37 | Report abuse |
  49. JerPell

    Another foolish food study!

    August 17, 2012 at 07:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Jen

    And did they eat the yolk WITH the white in order to take the cholinesterase into account here, which effectively negates the effects of the cholesterol in the yolk.....?? I doubt it...just blame the egg yolk and move on. I'm with most other folks here....go ahead and put your fried egg right next to your bacon and add some cheese if you like. Let it rip cuz we only get one ride on this earth! Make it your own... =)

    August 17, 2012 at 07:36 | Report abuse | Reply
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