They must be yolking: Eggs are cigarettes?

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Though it s widely known that smoking cigarettes accelerates the thickening of fatty deposits that clog arteries, a new study has found that the same might also be true of eggs at least for those aged 40 and older who eat them on a regular basis. These dubious results were not only published in the journal Atherosclerosis but, sadly, they were also widely reported by the news media.

In this study, led by Dr. David Spence of Western Ontario University, over 1,200 patients who had suffered either a clot-induced stroke or a transient ischemic attack (a warning sign for increased stroke risk) took a survey on smoking, exercise, and diet. Researchers found that, among those whose whole-egg consumption was in the highest 20 percent, the narrowing of the carotid artery was about two-thirds that of the study s heaviest smokers.

Although egg yolks received a lot of flack twenty-plus years ago for ostensibly increasing blood cholesterol, such theories have largely been abandoned as recent evidence suggests that eating eggs may actually increase HDL (good cholesterol). It s interesting, then, that the National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute hasn t updated its guidelines: The group is still advising that Americans limit their cholesterol intake to no more than 300 mg daily while also consuming no more than four whole eggs per week a count that includes even those found in baked goods or processed foods.

Such recommendations are outdated, says ACSH s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan. It s long been recognized that eggs are a great low-calorie source of protein, and their soft texture is especially good for older adults who may have trouble eating. This study amounts to little more than data dredging, and Americans should know that there s absolutely nothing wrong with adding eggs to a balanced diet.

As ACSH s Dr. Ruth Kava points out, This study showed only a correlation between dietary habits of people who already had a cardiovascular problem and carotid artery narrowing. There s no way that these data can be applied to the general population, nor can they demonstrate that egg yolk consumption actually caused the narrowing.