Egg Yolks Increase Coronary Heart Disease Risks: Study

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Consuming too much of cholesterol rich foods like egg yolks have long been known to increase the risk of cardiovascular events. A new study by researchers at the University of Western Ontario has found that regular consumption of egg yolks accelerated the process of atherosclerosis, a process of thickening of the arteries due to the accumulation of plaque, in a manner similar to smoking cigarettes. Cholesterol is a key component in plaque formation.

Egg yolk consumption was found to be two-thirds as bad as smoking for the build up of carotid plaque. Accumulated plaque over a period of time could induce heart attacks and strokes.

In a study involving 1231 subjects who attended vascular prevention clinics at the London Health Sciences Center's University Hospital, data was collected on lifestyle and medications taken. Details collected by researchers included number of pack-years of smoking (number of cigarette packs smoked per day times number of years) and egg yolk-years ( the number of egg yolks consumed per week times number of years consumed). The mean age of subjects in the study was 61.5 years. The total plaque area was determined through the duplex ultrasound method.

Researchers determined carotid plaque increased linearly with age after 40. With pack years of smoking and egg-yolk years, the increase was rapid. The study show those who ate three or more egg yolks per week had significantly more plaque area than those who consumed two or less yolks per week.

Dr. David Spence , professor of Neurology at Western's Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and director of its Stroke Prevention and Atherosclerosis Research Center at the Robarts Research Institute and the lead author of the study said, "The mantra 'eggs can be part of a healthy diet for healthy people' has confused the issue. It has been known for a long time that a high cholesterol intake increases the risk of cardiovascular events, and egg yolks have a very high cholesterol content. In diabetics, an egg a day increases coronary risk by two to five-fold."

He added "What we have shown is that with aging, plaque builds up gradually in the arteries of Canadians, and egg yolks make it build up faster - about two-thirds as much as smoking. In the long haul, egg yolks are not okay for most Canadians."

The study indicated that persons with risks for cardiovascular diseases should avoid regular consumption of egg yolk. The egg yolk increasing arterial plaque was found to be independent of age, sex, cholesterol, blood pressure, smoking, body mass index and diabetes in patients. Nonetheless, the study indicates further research to account for factors like waist circumference and exercise.

The research study details are published in the online Atherosclerosis journal, August edition.

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