The Truth About Eggs

Mass March is less than a week away and I plan on eating half a dozen eggs a day, yes yolks included. Am I putting myself on the fast-track for high cholesterol? Is a heart attack imminent? I’ve decided to shed light on the ever-controversial issue of egg yolks and cholesterol.

4 yolk omelette

Since my days of undergrad (2007), I have eaten, almost without fail, 3 hard-boiled eggs a day, yolks included. That adds up to a total of 6,570 egg yolks and a whopping 1,314,000mg of dietary cholesterol in 6 years. Upon departing to Europe for my masters program, I took the liberty of getting a thorough check-up including full blood work, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and yes, the ‘cough’ test. Everything checked out nicely, in fact the doctor complimented me on my overall health (apparently milk thistle and greens multi+ does well to combat the after-effects of alcohol, but more on that in a separate post).

So, what gives?

We’ll start with a brief background of eggs.

Since the dawn of mankind, eggs have been a powerhouse of nutrition. They have long been characterized as one of the most nutrient-dense foods available, along with quality protein they also provide an array of vitamins and lutein, choline, and iodine–to name a few of their nutrients, all found in the yolk.

From the Journal of the American College of Nutrition

Table 2.

RDA of Major Nutrients from Two Large Eggs


% Daily Value


% Daily Value

Food Energy








Vitamin B12


Vitamin K


Vitamin D




Vitamin A




Vitamin E




Vitamin B6





Suddenly, their image took a nosedive as studies in the 1970s revealed high levels of cholesterol in eggs, spurring trends like egg whites and egg substitutes. More recent studies in this decade, however, have shown to bring clarity to the situation. From  my research, their was one recurring theme disproving the unhealthy reputation of eggs and high cholesterol:


Dietary cholesterol DOES NOT have a significant impact on blood cholesterol levels or heart health.*


*trans fats, some saturated fats, and refined carbohydrates, on the other hand, are proven culprits


So, what exactly is significant? The impact of dietary cholesterol in eggs on plasma lipid levels (including blood cholesterol) is so minimal that, especially for healthy individuals, I would go as far to call it negligent.

From a 2000 study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition:

“Research has not established a significant independent relationship between dietary cholesterol and LDL or total serum cholesterol levels, incidence of heart disease or heart disease deaths. Furthermore, data fail to show a relationship between egg consumption and either serum cholesterol levels or heart disease incidence. Recent research using an endpoint of heart disease and stroke rather than serum cholesterol levels calls into question the need to limit a high cholesterol food like eggs. In their analysis of data from prospective epidemiological studies, Hu et al. [5] found that consumption of up to one egg a day was not related to heart disease or stroke risk.”

A more recent study in 2006 in the Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care by Maria Fernandez brings further clarity to the situation. The study was conducted on a ‘healthy population,’ measuring the effects of dietary cholesterol and found 30% to be affected (hyperresponders) and 70% to be unaffected (hyporesponders). For the hyperresponder, dietary cholesterol increased the concentration of both LDL and HDL cholesterol, therefore nullifying any harmful effects*. The hyporesponders experienced little to no alterations in plasma cholesterol concentrations, even when challenged with high amounts of dietary cholesterol.

A word from Deep Dan (BSc in Human Biology):

Another key point in the Fernandez article:  “Egg intake has been shown to promote the formation of large LDL, in addition to shifting individuals from the LDL pattern B to pattern A, which is less atherogenic.” In other words, Pattern B is small LDL which can easily pass through the endolethium and cause much more problems. Pattern A means LDL particles aren’t passing through easily and therefore posing almost no problems to an individuals cholesterol.


* HDL (High density lipoprotein) cholesterol is the good guy and acts to get rid of the bad guy, LDL (Low density lipoprotein)  cholesterol  by binding to it and returning it from the bloodstream to the liver.  Therefore, high HDL and low LDL is ideal. In the case of hyperresponders, both levels are increased, but LDL is prevented from inflicting harm because it is equally matched with HDL.  

The study concludes:

 “For these reasons, dietary recommendations aimed at restricting egg consumption should not be generalized to include all individuals. We need to acknowledge that diverse healthy populations experience no risk in developing coronary heart disease by increasing their intake of cholesterol but, in contrast, they may have multiple beneficial effects by the inclusion of eggs in their regular diet.”


And now to a bit of an extreme case…

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine depicts an 88 year old man who has consumed a staggering 25 eggs a day for at least 15 years–soft boiled, yolks and all. The kicker? The patients plasma lipid levels* were COMPLETELY normal.

In no way am I endorsing a 25 egg-a-day diet, but it definitely provides an emphatic counter-perspective to the old 3 eggs a week guideline of the 80s.

*total cholesterol, 5.18 mmol per liter (200 mg per deciliter); LDL, 3.68 mmol per liter (142 mg per deciliter); and HDL, 1.17 mmol per liter (45 mg per deciliter). The ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol was 3.15


Well yolks, there you have it. The tastiest and most nutrient dense part of the egg isn’t going to kill you after all.

If you’re leading a healthy, active lifestyle, like almost all readers are, then quit buying those egg white substitutes and get cracking with the real thing. Whether your goal is fat loss, muscle-building, or just plain healthy eating, best to put yolks back on the menu.



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