New research suggests that eating egg yolks accelerates atherosclerosis (the build-up of plaque in our arteries) in a manner similar to smoking cigarettes. Atherosclerosis is known as a risk factor for coronary heart disease (CHD) and heart attacks.
Canadian researchers studied 1231 patients attending vascular prevention clinics with an average age of 62 years old. Cholesterol that sticks to the inside of the arteries is called plaque, which is a marker of arterial damage. The researchers measured the amount of plaque in the carotid arteries of the patients. Participants also completed questionnaires regarding their lifestyle, including pack-years of smoking (number of packs per day of cigarettes x the number of years of smoking), and egg-yolk years (the number of egg yolks consumed per week x the number of years consumed).
The results showed that with age, the amount of plaque in the carotid arteries increased from the age of 40. This process, however, was found to increase exponentially with pack-years of smoking and egg-yolk years. Participants who ate three or more egg yolks per week had significantly more plaque in their arteries than participants consuming two or fewer yolks per week.
According to the researchers, their data suggest a strong association between egg consumption and carotid plaque burden. The exponential nature of the increase in plaque due to egg consumption seems to follow a similar pattern to that of cigarette smoking.
“In view of the almost unanimous agreement on the damage caused by smoking, we believe our study makes it imperative to reassess the role of egg yolks, and dietary cholesterol in general, as a risk factor for CHD,” they write in the paper.
The researchers argue that their findings suggest that regular consumption of egg yolk should be avoided by persons at risk of cardiovascular disease.
Source: The Atlantic
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Spence, J.D., Jenkins, D.J.A., & Davignon, J. (2012). Egg yolk consumption and carotid plaque. Atherosclerosis DOI: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2012.07.032