Are Eggs Healthy?

Eggs In a Carton

For many years, the research has gone back and forth about whether or not eggs are a healthy food to consume. Probably the biggest concern about eating eggs was related to their cholesterol content. Yet more recent research has found that dietary cholesterol has a minimal impact on blood cholesterol. For eggs, it appears that regular consumption causes modest increases of cholesterol levels (Li 2020). However, it’s worth exploring whether or not this increase actually raises any health risks. 

Heart Disease and Egg Consumption

The latest meta-analysis on egg consumption and heart disease included almost 500,000 individuals where over 9000 died from heart disease. In the meta-analysis, egg consumption was associated with a small but significant increase in the risk of death from heart disease. For each egg per day consumed, the risk of dying from heart disease increased by nine percent (Zhao 2022).

However, other studies still appear to contradict the results. An even larger analysis on the potential health risks of eggs included over 2 million subjects and more than 200,000 deaths. In the study, they did not find an association between eggs and heart disease (Mousavi 2022). However, a similar study with 1.7 million subjects did still show a correlation between death from heart disease and egg consumption (Yang 2022). 

With all the studies, some of which seem contradictory, it can be frustrating. Yet on the whole it appears that eggs may be associated with a small increased risk of heart disease. 

Diabetes and Egg Consumption

For studies from the United States, data suggests that egg consumption is associated with an increased risk for developing blood sugar problems and diabetes. Eating an average of one egg per day was found to be associated with a 27% increased risk of diabetes (Djousse 2021). 

However, it is worth noting that regional differences between egg consumption and diabetes risk exist. In the U.S., egg consumption appears to be associated with increased risk. Yet in Europe and Asia, egg consumption doesn’t appear to increase the risk (Drouin-Chartier 2020). While researchers tried to account for other factors and health behaviors that are related to egg consumption, they may not have been perfect. It’s possible that in the U.S. that egg consumption correlates with bacon consumption which may be part of the problem. Cooking style and the quality or type of eggs may also play a role. 

Cancer and Egg Consumption

Cancer is a dreaded disease and one of the more common causes of death worldwide. And while smoking is still a leading cause of cancer, other factors, including diet, can come into play. 

An analysis of egg consumption and death from numerous causes found a correlation. For each additional egg consumed per week, the risk of dying from cancer increased by 4% (Mousavi 2022). The authors’ conclusion was that eggs should only be consumed in smaller amounts, at most one egg per day. 

A separate study also appeared to confirm the findings, showing a small increased risk of dying from cancer correlated with egg consumption (Yang 2022).

Trying to Draw Conclusions

Fried Eggs Are Less Healthy As Compared to Boiled or Poached

The data are difficult to fully interpret. There could easily be behaviors or other foods associated with egg consumption that may be the cause of the increased disease risks. With the past recommendations in the United States for limiting egg consumption, it’s possible that people that are more health conscious in general eat less eggs, which could skew the research. 

None of the research that I could find attempted to discern differences that may exist from how eggs are cooked and their health effects. Yet it should be noted that different cooking styles could be relevant. Fried and scrambled eggs, due to exposure of the egg yolk to high heat, can damage the cholesterol present within the egg, likely making them less healthy to eat. Some studies have also found that eggs can be a source of pollutants and heavy metals—factors which may be highly variable based on where and how the egg-laying hens were raised. Different bird eggs, like duck and quail, may also introduce other variables, the most obvious being size.

From the data available, it does appear that eggs may contribute a small risk to a number of different disease conditions. Generally, my advice has been to not eat more than one egg per day on average and to cook them in healthier ways: poached or boiled. Eggs do contain a readily available source of protein and other nutrients in the yolk that can be hard to acquire from other sources. Personally, I still eat eggs and don’t plan to stop, but will keep in mind the above findings. 

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