Consuming cholesterol was initially thought to significantly raise the levels of cholesterol in the body, which can increase the risk of heart disease.
Research has shown, however, that eggs do not increase the chances of heart disease.
Cholesterol in the body
Cholesterol is a fatty substance that has a range of essential bodily functions.
Its role includes supporting the production of new cells and hormones to the formation of fat-dissolving bile acids and helping with the absorption of vitamins.
Scientists now understand that the cholesterol people consume in foods only has a small impact on cholesterol levels in the body.
The majority of cholesterol production takes place in the liver. The main influencing factor for this is not how much cholesterol someone consumes, but other factors, such as the amount of saturated fat in the diet.
In the past, there was also a misunderstanding about the role of cholesterol in the body, but more recent research has now challenged this too.
Good and bad cholesterol levels
The way cholesterol moves through the bloodstream is relevant to the impact it can have.
Either low-density lipoproteins (LDL) or high-density lipoproteins (HDL) transport the cholesterol.
HDL is responsible for collecting cholesterol that is no longer needed, and LDL transports cholesterol to areas where it is needed.
Abnormally high levels of LDL cholesterol are typically unhealthy because they can build up and cause clogging in the arteries. This buildup of cholesterol can increase the risk of heart attacks.
HDL cholesterol is considered to be ‘healthier’ than LDL cholesterol, as it plays a role in removing the cholesterol from the body.
A greater understanding of how cholesterol works in the body means that it is now unclear whether high levels of cholesterol are always unhealthy.
For example, one recent review of existing studies found that there was no link between LDL cholesterol and heart disease.
While this study had several limitations, it demonstrates that the relationship between cholesterol and health is much less clear than previously thought.
Benefits of eggs
Eggs may contain a relatively high amount of cholesterol, but they do not have a major impact on cholesterol levels.
They are a highly nutritious source of protein, containing a range of vitamins and minerals, including:
- vitamin A
- vitamin B and B-12
- vitamin D
Eggs are affordable and easily included in a balanced diet. The best way of consuming eggs is to boil or poach them without using salt.
Eggs that have been enriched with omega-3 and sourced from free-range farms are the healthiest eggs.
Eating between one and three eggs per day can have several health benefits, but this varies from person-to-person. At this level of consumption, people can expect minimal changes in their cholesterol levels.
It is unclear whether there is an upper limit on how many eggs a person can eat per day. More research in this area is needed to provide clarity.
But when people have no health issues causing concern, they can eat eggs in moderate quantities, and they are unlikely to have any effects on cholesterol levels.
Large-scale studies have consistently shown that consuming eggs does not increase the risk of heart disease. Unless under specific advice from a doctor, it is not necessary for people with high cholesterol or those at risk of heart disease to avoid eggs.
It is possible to contact food poisoning from consuming raw eggs. Food poisoning is, however, becoming increasingly more unlikely with the rise in health and food safety standards in the United States.