Are Egg Yolks as Bad as Cigarettes?

Eating egg yolks regularly can accelerate heart disease nearly as much as smoking, according to an online study published in the journal Atherosclerosis that was reported by CNN.

Patients in the study who consumed three or more yolks per week had significantly more plaque buildup in blood vessels than individuals who ate fewer than two yolks per week.

While the idea that eating several yolks a week is as harmful as smoking cigarettes may seem a bit alarmist, lead study author David Spence, MD, points out that eating cholesterol and smoking cigarettes both raise an individual's risk of cardiovascular disease. One egg yolk has 237 mg of cholesterol.

Even young, healthy patients should watch their cholesterol, says Spence, professor of neurology at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. "Just because you are 20 doesn't mean egg yolks aren't going to cause any trouble down the line," he told CNN.

But Lisa Ronco, RD, CDN, of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia Medical Center in New York City feels more research is needed before stating that egg yolks are as much of a potential health hazard as smoking.

"This was not a great study," she said. "They did not take into account the patients' weight or whether they exercised." It's important to look at what a person's overall diet consists of, she says.

"If you are eating a lot of foods that are high in saturated fat, or a lot of packaged processed foods that are high in fat, this could be raising your cholesterol," Ronco says.

Cut down on consuming foods that can contain "hidden" saturated fats, she says. It's important, Ronco advises, to make sure you're getting enough dietary fiber.

Keeping your daily intake of cholesterol to 300 mg per day is prudent, says Nancy Copperman, MS, RD, CDN, director of public health initiatives in the Office of Community Health at the North Shore-LIJ Health System in Great Neck, NY. Anyone who is at risk for heart disease would do well to keep daily cholesterol intake to 200 mg per day.

The study in question failed to look at other factors in people's diets, Copperman says. "The study did not say what else they were eating," she said. "I would have liked to see, with the high egg yolk eaters, what their saturated fat intake was."

If you're trying to cut down on cholesterol as well as saturated fat, that doesn't mean you have to give up eggs. But instead of making a two-egg omelet, make an omelet with one egg and four egg whites. Toss in some cooked vegetables for extra fiber, and have it with whole wheat toast. When you make muffins or quick breads, use two egg whites in place of a whole egg. And make egg salad using a ratio of one hard cooked egg to four hard cooked egg whites. Adding a bit of spicy mustard along with the light mayo makes this dish taste extra special.




"Is eating egg yolks as bad as smoking?" 15 August 2012.

"Healthy diet: end the guesswork with these nutrition guidelines." Mayo Clinic.