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Eggs and cholesterol: experts weigh new recommendations on eggs, cholesterol and heart health

A new and extensive study can serve as confusing advice to egg lovers. Research conducted by Northwestern Medicine has shown that adults who ate multiple eggs a week and high levels of dietary cholesterol had a significantly higher risk of cardiovascular disease and death, regardless of the cause.

The results suggest that it may be time to re-evaluate current US dietary guidelines that no longer limits cholesterol or eggs, say the researchers.

"The takeaway really concerns cholesterol, which contains eggs and especially yellows," said one of the authors, Norrina Allen, Ph.D., associate professor of preventive medicine at the Feinberg School of Medicine. from Northwestern University, said in a statement. "As part of a healthy diet, people need to consume less cholesterol.People who consume less cholesterol have a lower risk of heart disease."

Before 2015, the nutrition guidelines recommended eating less than 300 milligrams of dietary cholesterol per day. But this year, based on the data available at that time, the recommendations have changed, eliminating the daily limit of cholesterol and focusing instead on reducing foods rich in saturated fats.

New research argues for reducing this limit.

Replace saturated fats with healthier fats for your heart

What the new study shows

Allen and his team collected data on nearly 30,000 adults from various racial and ethnic backgrounds between 1985 and 2016. Participants were asked about their eating habits in the past month or year in a long questionnaire. . At the end of the follow-up period, the group experienced 5,400 cardiovascular events and 6,132 deaths from all causes.

An analysis revealed that consumption of 300 milligrams of dietary cholesterol per day was associated with a 17% higher risk of cardiovascular disease and a higher risk of death by 18%.

The eggs were then examined as one of the richest sources of dietary cholesterol. A large egg contains about 186 milligrams of dietary cholesterol in the yolk.

The researchers found that eating three to four eggs a week was associated with a 6% higher risk of cardiovascular disease and a higher risk of all causes of death, by 8%. The results were published today in JAMA.

Compared to previous studies, "this report is much more complete and contains sufficient data to strongly state that egg consumption and dietary cholesterol remain important to reduce risk" cardiac disease and death, Dr. Robert H. Eckel writes in an editorial published with the study.

Why are there so many contradictory guidelines on eggs?

With so much conflicting evidence, it can be difficult for consumers to know which foods are considered healthy choices.

"I can fully understand that people would be confused and frustrated," said Dr. Leslie Cho, a preventive cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic, at CBS News.

She notes that while the JAMA report is scientifically sound and well written, it has, like any study, its limits.

"This is a very large study of a very large number of different types of patients, all of which are good things," she said. "But in general, any dietary study is fraught with difficulty because of the problem of recalling the patient.Do you remember what you ate last week? Because I do not do it.C & # 39; is the same with patients. "

Most dietary studies are also observational, making their results less reliable. Indeed, unlike a randomized controlled trial that tests the safety and effectiveness of a drug, it is difficult to randomly control what people eat over a long period of time, particularly with a large sample.

However, despite his shortcomings, Dr. Cho says that these studies are important for a better understanding of nutrition research.

"In science, the way it works is that we do not see it as a study with the last word," she said. "In science, we examine the preponderance of evidence to see where the field is going."

Conclusion: moderation is key

It is important to note that no one, no more than the authors of the study, says that you must completely eliminate eggs from your diet.

"We want to remind people that there is cholesterol in eggs, especially yolks, and that this has a detrimental effect," said Allen, who said that she was still preparing scrambled eggs for his children. "Eat them in moderation."

Cho says she's never stopped recommending to her patients to limit their dietary cholesterol intake to 300 milligrams a day or to tell them that they could eat as many eggs as they do. ### They would like it.

"In addition to dietary cholesterol, the consumption of eggs and other products of animal origin carries a risk of cancer," she said. "We always said you could have egg whites, but you should probably limit your consumption of egg yolk."

She recommends sticking to a Mediterranean diet, which is rich in heart-healthy and low-cholesterol herbal foods, including fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts.

"It has been shown time and time again that it improves survival," Cho said. "It's the diet we should adopt."

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