Heart attack: Study confirms popular breakfast food not associated with heart attack risk

A large research study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has confirmed no significant association between egg intake and blood fat levels, cardiovascular risk and mortality. Researchers in the past have published results linking egg consumption to an increased risk of heart disease and death. But the new study suggests eggs aren’t as bad as first thought.

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“This new research is particularly important as it includes a much more diverse population than many previous studies,” says Dr Juliet Gray, a registered UK nutritionist.

“All major heart and health advisory bodies in the UK now concur that the cholesterol in eggs has no significant effect on heart disease risk, as shown by most recent research in this area.

“The small number of studies showing contradictory results have tended to use older retrospective data, from higher-income countries, making it more likely that egg consumption is associated with an unhealthy diet and other factors associated with affluence which are themselves risk factors for heart disease.”

In the latest study, researchers at the Population Health Research Institute (PHRI), McMaster University, Canada, analysed the results from three long-term international studies that included data from 177,000 people in 50 countries, to assess the association of egg consumption with blood lipids, cardiovascular disease (CVD), and mortality in populations from low-, middle-, and high-income countries.

More than 146,000 of the individuals studied were from 21 countries in the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study, where egg consumption was recorded using food frequency questionnaires specific to each country.

A further 31,544 patients with vascular disease in two multinational prospective studies (ONTARGET and TRANSCEND) were also investigated.

In the PURE study, after excluding people with history of CVD, higher intake of egg (seven eggs a week or more) was not significantly associated with blood lipids, total mortality or major CVD.

Similar results were observed in the other two studies.

The researchers concluded: “In three large international prospective studies including more than 177,000 individuals, 12,701 deaths, and 13,658 CVD events from 50 countries in six continents, we did not find significant associations between egg intake and blood lipids, mortality, or major CVD events.”

The PHRI study authors comment that contradictory evidence on the impact of eggs on diseases is largely based on studies conducted in high-income countries.

The NHS says eggs are a good choice as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

As well as being a source of protein, they also contain a range vitamins and minerals, including protein, vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin B12, folate and iodine.

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When it comes to the number of eggs you should eat, the health body states there is no recommended limit.

It advises: “Eggs can be enjoyed as part of a healthy, balanced diet, but it’s best to cook them without adding salt or fat. For example boiled or poached, without added salt, or scrambled without butter and using low-fat milk instead of cream.

“Frying eggs can increase their fat content by around 50 percent.”

While eggs contain some cholesterol, and eating too much cholesterol can increase the risk of heart disease, the amount of saturated fat a person eats has more of an effect on the amount of cholesterol in their blood than the cholesterol they get from eating eggs.

How to prevent a heart attack through diet

An unhealthy diet high in fat can harden the arteries (atherosclerosis) and increase a person’s risk of a heart attack.

Avoid foods high in saturated fat is highly advised.

The NHS recommends aiming to follow a Mediterranean-style diet, which means eating more bread, fruit, vegetables and fish, and eating less meat.

Butter and cheese should also be replaced with products based on vegetable and plant oil, such as olive oil.

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