Regularly eating egg yolk could be as bad for your heart as smoking, according to new research.
Scientists in Canada found that egg yolk contains cholesterol and eating too much of it increases the risk of coronary artery disease.
The team surveyed more than 1,200 people and discovered that the cholesterol in eggs increases the formation of plaques in arteries. When these plaques rupture, it can cause heart attacks and strokes.
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“The mantra ‘eggs can be part of a healthy diet for healthy people’ has confused the issue,” said Dr. David Spence from Western University, who led the study.
“What we have shown is that with aging, plaque builds up gradually in the arteries, and egg yolks make it build up faster — about two-thirds as much as smoking. In the long haul, egg yolks are not OK for most people.”
The researchers quantified the data they found and multiplied it by the number of cigarettes a person smoked per day with the number of years a person smoked.
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They did the same with the eggs, multiplying the number of eggs per day with the number of years they ate them for.
The data found that egg yolk had a similar impact as smoking, with the risk of stroke and heart attacks doubling with smoking and eating egg yolk after 40.
The British Egg Information Service has refuted the claims in the study. It says that the researchers have over-simplified the data to suggest a clear correlation between eating egg yolk and having a higher risk of heart problems.
It added that the study did not take into account other lifestyle factors which could impact cholesterol levels and that the average age of participants was 62 - over the age at which heart problems begin to increase anyway.
[Related article: Can you change your eating habits?]The Department of Health and the British Heart Foundation still advise that for most people, there is no limit to the amount of eggs they can eat in a week.