Egg yolk consumption almost as bad as smoking when it comes to atherosclerosis

Newly published research led by Dr. David Spence of Western University, Canada, shows that eating egg yolks accelerates atherosclerosis in a manner similar to smoking cigarettes. Surveying more than 1200 patients, Dr. Spence found regular consumption of egg yolks is about two-thirds as bad as smoking when it comes to increased build-up of carotid plaque, a risk factor for stroke and heart attack. The research is published online in the journal Atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis, also called coronary artery disease, is a disorder of the arteries where plaques, aggravated by cholesterol, form on the inner arterial wall. Plaque rupture is the usual cause of most heart attacks and many strokes. The study looked at data from 1231 men and women, with a mean age of 61.5, who were patients attending vascular prevention clinics at London Health Sciences Centre’s University Hospital. Ultrasound was used to establish a measurement of total plaque area and questionnaires were filled out regarding their lifestyle and medications including pack-years of smoking (number of packs per day of cigarettes times the number of years), and the number of egg yolks consumed per week times the number of years consumed (egg yolk-years).

The researchers found carotid plaque area increased linearly with age after age 40, but increased exponentially with pack-years of smoking and egg yolk-years. In other words, compared to age, both tobacco smoking and egg yolk consumption accelerate atherosclerosis. The study also found those eating three or more yolks a week had significantly more plaque area than those who ate two or fewer yolks per week.

“The mantra ‘eggs can be part of a healthy diet for healthy people’ has confused the issue. It has been known for a long time that a high cholesterol intake increases the risk of cardiovascular events, and egg yolks have a very high cholesterol content. In diabetics, an egg a day increases coronary risk by two to five-fold,” says Dr. Spence, a Professor of Neurology at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and the Director of its Stroke Prevention and Atherosclerosis Research Centre (SPARC) at the Robarts Research Institute. “What we have shown is that with aging, plaque builds up gradually in the arteries of Canadians, and egg yolks make it build up faster – about two-thirds as much as smoking. In the long haul, egg yolks are not okay for most Canadians.”

Dr. Spence adds the effect of egg yolk consumption over time on increasing the amount of plaque in the arteries was independent of sex, cholesterol, blood pressure, smoking, body mass index and diabetes. And while he says more research should be done to take in possible confounders such as exercise and waist circumference, he stresses that regular consumption of egg yolk should be avoided by persons at risk of cardiovascular disease.

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24 thoughts on “Egg yolk consumption almost as bad as smoking when it comes to atherosclerosis”

  1. Pete don’t stop eating eggs, hopefully you can see the study is flawed, I’m not sure why anybody would take advice from a guy in a lab coat that has a horrible physique/very mediocore health doctors are still promoting carbohydrates over fat, overeating on carbohydrate is way worse then overeating on fat, Fat is essiential to the body, You dont even need carbohydrates, they are optional, Factor in body coverts carbohydrate to sugar, which doctors have been saying is the enemy, for how many years? yet they are a huge contradiction, seeing as the carbohydrate they are telling you to eat is infact sugar, dont listen to B.S, things like this here make me sad, yet i try to find a reason to laugh at it, mostly cause the irony

  2. I wonder what else people were eating other than eggs… Ive been eating 12 eggs 3 yolks every morning for years and am in perfect condition, recently had a checkup… eggs are definatly better for you than cigarettes. I hope they dont ban eggs haha WTF!

  3. It’s studies like this that create such misinformation among those not in the know about nutrition (i.e. general public). Many people will now stop eating eggs, when in fact they are among one of the best foods you could possible eat, and not eating the yolks is ridiculous. This is where all the best nutrients are. These scientists should be ashamed of themselves, as the lipid hypothesis that fat makes you fat, and ingesting cholesterol increases your cholesterol have since been disproved. Inflammation is at the root cause of heart disease, and it’s a poor diet, lack of sleep, stress, too much refined food, low fat fat food, diet food, energy drinks and the crap most people eat nowadays that is the main contributing factors to these modern day ailments (heart disease, type II diabetes, high cholesterol, acid reflux, ADD, depression, skin conditions, and much more). Studies like this, where they ask people to recall what they eat are the weakest kind of study that be done. Complete garbage science. I will not even tell you how many eggs I eat a week, and I am as healthy as a wild stallion.

  4. I’m not surprised at these finding within those study parameters. Had they asked about which foods these eggs were eaten with I very much doubt that the answers would have been salad for the most at risk group, but more likely high fat foods. They did not, however. A very shoddy study indeed. I wonder what the motivation was in designing the study in this way and how ever did it get published?

  5. It’s articles like this making people unhealthy not egg yolks, what a tinpot study so wrong its untrue. Maybe if you asked them which was there favorite teenage mutant ninja turtle the ones that corrolated to people with most clogged ateries can blame them too

    • Maybe it’s the the high glycemic index foods and condiments that are included with breakfast. i.e; sugar in coffee, and tea, ketchup on scrambled eggs, toast, jam, danishes, etc.

  6. I spend years of research to study content of egg yolk of four avian species to learn why only chicken egg yolk but not remaining three avian species (goose, turkey, duck) is effective and necessary addition to preserve cell membranes during freezing-thawing procedures. To simplify, the answer is that the content of phospholipid, phospatidylcholine (PCH) is the highest in chicken egg yolk but not in other three. PCH is a main component of outside layer of every single cell membranes which our body is build. Cells in in-vitro (in lesser degree in in-vivo, depends on many circumstances) conditions is easily detached from the membranes, make membrane/cell very susceptible and weak at adverse conditions and at the end the cell dies if this process is not stopped or minimize. Additions extracellular PCH present in chicken egg yolk make the trick and reverse this process, missing in vivo PCH is replaced by exogenous PCH if available. For the same reason products based mostly on soybean contain high concentration of PCH is now widely used in many commercial food and cosmetic products and research.
    In my opinion, this rather sensational research seems to not have solid, scientifically proven merits.
    AT. Palasz, Ph.D.

  7. Did they control for all the other foods being eaten by the test subjects?

    Are non-egg eaters more likely to eat a diet full of vegetables and other healthy stuff?
    Are egg eaters more likely to eat more junk food?
    Vice versa

    The researchers have made a HUGE leap from their observations to their conclusion.

  8. Association is not cause, and ANYBODY who says otherwise is either incompetent or biased. Take your pick. Cholesterol has never been demonstrated to cause atherosclerosis. These patients likely also ate more whole grains, more fruit, and more veggies. And how does he know it’s the cholesterol? We stick 200,000 birds in a small barn and make them lay eggs. Who thinks President’s Choice eggs are in anyway good?

    This man is a known egg hater and proponent of the lipid hypothesis. I take everything he says as biased.

    I eat 70% fat and large quantities of eggs with real butter. My LDL=1.82 HDL=2.92 TG=0.44 TOT=4.94 and my doctors find no signs of atherosclerosis. I get retinal scans every 6m.

    Sugar kills, people, not fat.

  9. People having problems processing cholesterol get worse when eating large amount of cholesterol. That seems simple to the point of stating the obvious, and completely overlooks what’s important about atherosclerosis, while encouraging people to avoid yet more nutrient-dense foods. Good for the industries that pump out nutrient-devoid “heart healthy” pseudo-foods though. I can’t believe this kind of junk is still taken seriously in 2012.

  10. I head Dr. Spence on the CBC this morning, and he did not communicate his research very well. Rather than dispute merits of the last decade or more of egg research, he instead took the straw man approach and called it propaganda by the egg industry. Not a good foot to get off on, methinks.

    Otherwise, he’s using a sample of already unhealthy Canadians who are in atherosclerosis clinics, but trying to apply it to all people. Also, he’s hinting at a mechanism of harm cause by eggs, without actually finding a mechanism. The study does show a correlation between eggs and health problems, but it is cross-sectional, not longitudinal. This is certainly not the last word. Thankfully, that’s what scientific research does – repeat studies to determine if the results can be duplicated.

    Dr. Spence has preemptively blamed the media for the projected reception of his research. I hope his tactics don’t turn off other researchers from following up on his study with their own investigations.

  11. This seems to be a somewhat flawed study. For one thing, a professor of neurology is conducting a study on heart disease. I’m not aware of his credentials, but I’m not sure if he was qualified to do this type of research. Secondly, he doesn’t appear to account for other factors, such as exercise, overall diet, etc. They need more information and research to prove their claims.

    • I eat “Paleo” and consume a LOT of whole eggs. I’m the healthiest I’ve been in a long time.

      I’m FAR more likely to follow the advice of the Paleo/Primal diet gurus (such as Mark Sisson of “Primal Blueprint” and Robb Wolf of “The Paleo Solution”) out there who are all VERY fit and healthy with good blood workup numbers.

      I don’t take the diet advice of FAT out-of-shape lab scientists whose study is incomplete!

      We’ve evolved over many MANY millennia eating eggs because we humans are opportunistic eaters and it is EASY for the average fit person to climb a tree and get eggs.

      This study is BS!

  12. @Brian.

    Actually if you read the blurb here, this study makes no claims about cholesterol. It is just looking at egg consumption. It actually says the results were independent actual blood cholesterol, so no claims about the mechanism involved, just the very negative correlation.

    IMO this is more important than past studies have looked at eggs effect on cholesterol levels and that left things up in the air, but this one looks at eggs->atherosclerosis, and finds a link, which is the strongest indictment against eggs I have seen.

    More research is indeed called for, but it doesn’t look good for eggs. It seems unlikely that they missed a huge confounding factor when they already screened for cholesterol, blood pressure, smoking, BMI, and diabetes. Many of which would mark sedentary populations.

    FWIW I will be rethinking my dozen/week egg habit.

  13. I agree with Brian concerning cholesterol type and study flaws. There is no detail given about the other health habits which coincided with those who ate more eggs. You cannot have a serious study without such facts, And how about this headline from last year..” Eggs’ Antioxidant Properties May Help Prevent Heart Disease and Cancer, Study Suggests”

  14. Nice flawed study with little to no information to support your claim. thanks for misinforming people, how about weather you did them on people that eat healthy regularly, or listing the age of some of the subjects, instead of a mean age, or maybe weather or not you did the study on sedentary,or active subjects, how about the fact that there is a difference between good and bad cholesteral which you fail to mention, I hope none of my tax dollars went to you idiots.

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