Eating an egg a day could decrease your risk of heart disease – study

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  • Eating one egg each day may have benefits for your heart, a new study suggests.
  • The Chinese study involved nearly 4 780 participants.
  • The results explain how egg consumption may help protect against heart disease.

Packed with protein, vitamins, and minerals, eggs are one of the most nutritious foods on the planet – and eating up to one each day may also be good for your heart.

Blood circulating through our bodies carries thousands of metabolites (molecules related to metabolic processes) and, according to a new study, moderate egg consumption can increase the amount of heart-healthy metabolites in your blood and lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. 

Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), a term for conditions affecting the heart and blood vessels, are the leading cause of death worldwide. Four of the main types include coronary heart disease, strokes, peripheral arterial disease, and aortic disease.

Conflicting study results

Fortunately, most cardiovascular diseases can be prevented by addressing behavioural risk factors such as tobacco use, an unhealthy diet, and physical inactivity.

In the current study, the researchers say there is conflicting evidence as to whether egg consumption is beneficial or harmful to heart health. 

For example, a large 2018 Chinese study found that participants who ate eggs daily (about one egg per day) had a substantially lower risk of heart disease and stroke than those who ate eggs less frequently. On the other hand, a 2019 US study found that for each half an egg consumed per day, participants had a 6% higher risk of developing CVD.

"Few studies have looked at the role that plasma cholesterol metabolism plays in the association between egg consumption and the risk of cardiovascular diseases, so we wanted to help address this gap," lead author Dr Lang Pan, from the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Peking University in Beijing, China, said in a news release.

Performing the study

The researchers involved 4 779 participants from the China Kadoorie Biobank, of whom 3 401 had CVD and the other 1 377 did not. 

Self-reported dietary surveys were collected. Plasma samples were also extracted from participants’ blood, and the team used a technique called "targeted nuclear magnetic resonance" to measure 225 metabolites in these samples. Of the metabolites, they found 24 that were linked with egg consumption.

According to their analyses, participants who ate a moderate number of eggs had higher levels of a protein in their blood, known as apolipoprotein A1. These individuals also had more large high-density lipoprotein (HDL) molecules in their blood, which help clear cholesterol from the blood vessels, and consequently protect against blockages that can cause heart attacks and stroke.

Then, the team identified 14 metabolites that are linked to heart disease. Participants who ate fewer eggs were found to have lower levels of beneficial metabolites and higher levels of harmful ones in their blood, compared to participants who ate eggs more frequently.

Findings add to knowledge 

More research is needed to confirm the role that metabolites play in the link between egg consumption and the risk of CVD, but the new study’s findings are certainly promising and add to existing knowledge researchers have on the connection between the two.

“Together, our results provide a potential explanation for how eating a moderate amount of eggs can help protect against heart disease,” said co-author, associate professor Canqing Yu. 

The study was published in eLife.

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