Why egg yolks are not to blame

A few years ago the debate about the role of egg yolks in diet and potential risk of cardio-vascular disease was rekindled by a paper Egg yolk consumption and carotid plaque, published by the journal Atherosclerosis.

The authors claimed that eating egg yolks accelerates atherosclerosis in a manner similar to smoking cigarettes. Surveying more than 1,200 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. They cited two studies that found that egg yolks contribute to overall mortality of diabetics. In the conclusion, however, they noted that the hypothesis of suggesting people at risk of cardio-vascular disease to avoid egg yolk consumption should be tested in a prospective study with more detailed information about diet.

In a letter to the editor of the journal they also acknowledge that their findings apply to a population that is generally over-nourished.

Let alone the complexity of the real role of (dietary) cholesterol in overall cardiovascular risk, one of the respondents to the publication, Sean C. Lucan from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in NY, pointed out:

Considering how North Americans tend to consume eggs, one wonders how often patients in the Spence-et-al study ate their eggs with other breakfast foods like toast and jam, pancakes and syrup, or potatoes and ketchup. How often did patients accompany their eggs with some kind of fruit juice, or sweetened tea or coffee? And how often did eggs come in sandwich form on white bread, or baked into confectionary treats? The critical question to ask is: might egg consumption have been a marker for refined starch and sugar consumption?

If we are over-nourished and diabetic, anything we eat might hurt us. However, let’s first start with solid health foundation before we start blaming eggs for killing us.

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