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How many eggs should I eat?

OK, here's yet another food dilemma: should you eat plenty of eggs, because they contain various healthy vitamins and minerals? Or should you not eat many eggs, because of the cholesterol they contain? As usual I'm determined to find an evidence-based answer.

The first things I find in a web search come from the egg marketing boards. So, bearing in mind that they're obviously quite biased, I check out "Healthy eggs" from britegg.co.uk and "Eggs and cholesterol" from nutritionandeggs.co.uk. So, as expected, they confirm that eggs are full of lots and lots of nutritious things, but they also argue that recent evidence shows that eggs aren't bad for health. They have two scientific studies to support this argument: one which looked at a large number of people in the USA and found eggs didn't increase the risk of heart disease; and one which reviewed the current state of scientific knowledge and found that saturated fat (rather than dietary cholesterol) was the main cause of people having high blood cholesterol levels.

So far, so good, although the source is not what you'd call 100% neutral. And even if saturated fat is the main cause of high blood cholesterol, could dietary cholesterol be a lesser but still important cause?

So, I found the cholesterol review article and had a look. It's a very tricky subject to unpick, actually. For example, the study finds that people who eat more dietary fat tend to eat more dietary cholesterol too. So it could be tricky to separate out the effect of these two. There are methods for doing this, of course, and in the multiple regression analysis used by the researchers, it seems that there were three significant influences on a person's blood cholesterol levels: their intakes of saturated fat, polyunsaturated fat (the more people eat, the lower their cholesterol, for polyunsaturates), and cholesterol. However, although these influences all took part, the cholesterol influence is strongly outweighed by the influence of saturated fat vs unsaturated fat - if I gloss over some of the details to come up with a very approximate rule of thumb, the study finds that reducing saturated fat is someting on the scale of ten times more influential than reducing cholesterol.

OK, so what about some other sources of information? The BBC often has a lot of health information, but searching their site didn't actually find very much. The story Eggs 'protect against breast cancer' reports on a USA study of women, finding that eating eggs in teenage years seems to help lessen the likelihood of breast cancer; the study involved a large number of people and was published in a reputable journal so it seems trustworthy. The only other article I found was An egg a day 'is good for you' which seems to be based on the same studies as the ones I mentioned above. They did however confirm with a British Nutrition Foundation scientist, who agreed that there was unlikely to be a health risk from eating an egg a day (they recommend 2 or 3 a week apparently). There is opposition from the Vegan Society, but once again, they're hardly an unbiased source of information about whether people should eat eggs or not!

What about UK government advice? The UK government seems to be quite keen on inventing websites for public information these days, and one of their sites I searched is eatwell.gov.uk. They have two useful pages here: a page about eggs (including the section: "How many eggs?" - aha!) and a Q&A about eggs and cholesterol. The message from them is: eggs are good for you, and you don't need to cut down on them (unless your doctor tells you to for a specific reason). Just eat a balanced diet, as they always say.

And that's pretty much my conclusion. It seems that people used to (reasonably) assume that eating food with cholesterol in, would raise your blood cholesterol, and that was a reason not to eat too many eggs. But that assumption is too simple, and dietary cholesterol isn't that worrying after all. As long as you eat a balanced diet you can enjoy your eggs.

Sunday 10th December 2006 | science | Permalink
Comments:
Name: DaveX
Website: http://startlingmoniker.wordpress.com
Email: malty1 art gmail dort com
Date: Sunday 10th December 2006 19:07
Moderation is key, in my estimate. I'm a vegetarian (I only keep dairy in my diet), so I don't eat eggs, but its for reasons aside from dietary concerns. I understand that vegetarianism is a big step for many people, but if you consider it in terms of efficient management of our food resources, it makes sense. Truthfully, it is these arguments (rather than the moralistic "animals have feelings" line) that have influenced me much more during my 10+ years as a vegetarian.
Name: sherry
Email: TstartingBlineS6CKYAidiot85 art yahoo dort com
Date: Sunday 31st December 2006 17:44
i have a friend who eats eggs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and she is extremely skinny. like, 90 pounds. do u think the eggs are causing her nutritional deficiency?
Name: Dan
Website: http://www.mcld.co.uk/
Date: Monday 1st January 2007 14:31
I think it's unlikely that eggs are specifically causing her to be so skinny. But then I'm not a doctor or a nutritionist so I can't really give much insight into that.
Name: Kriss Parker
Website: http://www.iomconnect.blogspot.com
Email: kickme97 art hotmail dort com
Date: Wednesday 9th May 2007 14:41
Hey there, i have just been looking into the research for the consumption for eggs, as i have been doing some research for my training schduel. I am a heavy Weight lifter and extremely fit, but my knowledge upon EGG still gets me going, and i came accross this site, and thought id share a little of what i know...

Thanks to more recent research, we now know the cholesterol in food has little effect on our blood cholesterol levels. What really affects blood cholesterol is the amount of saturated fat we eat. This means if you need to lower your cholesterol, the most important thing you can do is cut down on the amount of foods you eat that contain saturates, such as fatty meats, full-fat milk, butter, lard, cream, pastry, cakes and biscuits. Eating more fruit, vegetables and foods such as oats and pulses, which contain a type of fibre called soluble fibre can also help to lower cholesterol.
Thanks to this newfound knowledge, the Food Standards Agency doesn’t recommend limiting the number of eggs you eat.

Hope this helps.
Yours in Training,
Kriss
Name: egg hater
Email: pheonix dort richards41 art gmail dort com
Date: Tuesday 8th March 2011 18:09
thankyou!!! i hate egg, and my mom says i have to eat it once a week to be healthy ergg, but now i can just say its high in cholesterol :D
btw, the person who has a 90 pound friend that eats egg...have you ever thought she could be throwing it up afterwards? that stuff happnds...
Name: i hate egg hater
Date: Sunday 1st May 2011 21:22
quiet your eggless mouth
Name: i hate egg hater
Date: Sunday 1st May 2011 21:24
i'm sorry. when it comes to eggs, i get very emotional.

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