For years, we’ve been told that egg yolks are very high in cholesterol, but a new study has even more alarming news. For people over 40, egg yolks can be as dangerous to your arteries as smoking cigarettes.
The study, published Tuesday in the journal Atherosclerosis, measured the carotid wall thickness — a key indicator of heart disease risk — of 1,231 patients referred to a vascular prevention clinic, and asked each to detail a wide range of their health habits, from smoking and exercise to their consumption of egg yolks. Just as smoking is often tallied as “pack-years” (the number of cigarette packs smoked per day for how many years), egg-yolk consumption was tallied as “egg yolk years” (the number of egg yolks consumed per week times the number of years they were eaten).
The study subjects were typically referred to the clinic after having suffered a clot-induced stroke or a transient ischemic attack — a “mini-stroke” in which symptoms may disappear quickly but which often presage a more serious stroke to come.
Smoking tobacco and eating egg yolks increased carotid wall thickness in similar fashion — which is to say, the rate of increase accelerated with each stair-step up in cigarette smoking or yolk consumption. By contrast, for those who did not smoke, or who rarely consumed egg yolks, carotid wall thickness increased after 40, but at a slow-steady rate.
For those whose consumption of whole eggs was in the highest 20%, the narrowing of the carotid artery was on average about two-thirds that of the study’s heaviest smokers.
“We believe our study makes it imperative to reassess the role of egg yolks, and dietary cholesterol in general, as a risk factor for coronary heart disease,” the study authors write.
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