Newly published research led by Western’s Dr.David Spence shows that eating egg yolks accelerates atherosclerosis in a manner similar to smoking cigarettes.
Surveying more than 1200 patients, 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.
Atherosclerosis, also called coronary artery disease, is a disorder of the arteries where plaques, aggravated by cholesterol, form on the inner arterial wall. Plaque rupture is the usual cause of most heart attacks and many strokes.
Ultrasound was used to establish a measurement of total plaque area and questionnaires were filled out regarding their lifestyle and medications including pack-years of smoking (number of packs per day of cigarettes times the number of years), and the number of egg yolks consumed per week times the number of years consumed (egg yolk-years).
The researchers found carotid plaque area increased linearly with age after age 40, but increased exponentially with pack-years of smoking and egg yolk-years. In other words, compared to age, both tobacco smoking and egg yolk consumption accelerate atherosclerosis.
The study also found those eating three or more yolks a week had significantly more plaque area than those who ate two or fewer yolks per week.
Spence, a professor of Neurology at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, said: “The mantra ‘eggs can be part of a healthy diet for healthy people’ has confused the issue.
"It has been known for a long time that a high cholesterol intake increases the risk of cardiovascular events, and egg yolks have a very high cholesterol content. In diabetics, an egg a day increases coronary risk by two to five-fold.”
Source: University of Western Ontario