Eggs and ischaemic heart disease
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Eggs are one of the favourite breakfast items that are rich in proteins and fats, including omega-3 fats. However, there has always been that question in our minds, “are eggs good for health or bad?”.1 You are always watching your food intake, especially if you have a condition like ischaemic heart disease (IHD). The dietary restrictions alone make you wonder how much is okay and how much is too much.1,2

This article will assist you in understanding the nutritional facts about eggs and their inclusion in your diet if you have IHD.

What is IHD?

IHD is a heart condition in which your blood vessels are unable to carry oxygen-rich blood to the heart. The blood vessels become narrowed or hardened due to the deposition of plaque, a waxy substance that sticks to the walls of the blood vessels, thereby blocking the blood flow.2 You may have plaque deposition in your arteries due to higher than normal levels of bad cholesterol in your blood.3 There may not always be easily discernible symptoms, and you may suffer from a heart attack or heart failure if the condition is not diagnosed early on. Apart from medicines for IHD, your doctor will also recommend a heart-healthy lifestyle.2

What do eggs contain?

Eggs contain several healthy nutrients that are good for the eyes, brain and nerves.3 They contain vitamins A, B and D. They are also rich in proteins, and the egg yolk, the yellow portion in the egg, contains cholesterol. One large egg contains 210 mg of cholesterol, 6 g protein and very little saturated fat along with zeaxanthin and lutein, which are good for the eyes, and choline, which is good for the nerves.2-4 Phospholipids and carotenoids are also present in eggs.5

Do eggs increase the cholesterol levels in our blood?

Scientific research studies indicate that the cholesterol in our blood is synthesized in the liver and is not obtained from the cholesterol in the food we eat. The liver converts saturated fats and trans fats obtained from food into cholesterol. A large egg only contains a little amount of saturated fat; therefore, as studies suggest, eggs do not contribute towards increasing the cholesterol levels in our body. According to the studies, you can safely consume one egg per day without affecting your blood cholesterol levels.3 It is not the eggs but the other foods eaten along with eggs, such as cheese and butter, that increase the cholesterol in your blood.1,3

What is the association between eggs and IHD?

A number of clinical studies carried out among different populations established a relationship between the intake of dietary cholesterol and the risk of coronary events. However, studies have failed to establish any association between egg consumption and increased risk of heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular diseases.1,3-5 In fact, a few studies also state that the consumption of eggs has a favourable effect on the heart. The high-quality proteins in the eggs play a protective role against inflammation, oxidation and atherosclerosis.4,5 The studies indicate that there is little to no association in the consumption of eggs in the diet and the increased risk of IHD.4-6e.1

To conclude, the results of the studies conducted on eggs and their role in IHD suggest that we can include eggs in our diet without our heart being greatly affected.1,4-6 Eggs can thus be considered as friends rather than foe even if you have IHD, especially when taken in a modest quantity.4-6

Eggs are a healthy choice of food that should not put you at risk of heart disease. You can safely consume one egg a day and stay healthy.  However, if you have coexisting conditions like diabetes or other pre-existing heart conditions, then you should consult your doctor for the appropriate intake based on your needs.1

References:

  1. Heart Foundation. Eggs [Internet]. [cited 2019 Dec 2]. Available from: https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/healthy-eating/food-and-nutrition/protein-foods/eggs.
  2. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Ischaemic heart disease [Internet]. [cited 2019 Dec 2]. Available from: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/ischemic-heart-disease.
  3. Harvard Health Publishing. Harvard Medical School. Are eggs risky for heart health? [Internet]. 2017 [updated 2019 Jun 24; cited 2019 Dec 2]. Available from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/are-eggs-risky-for-heart-health.
  4. Rong Y, Chen L, Zhu T, Song Y, Yu M, Shan Z, et al. Egg consumption and risk of coronary heart disease and stroke: dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. BMJ. 2013 Jan 7;346:e8539. doi: 10.1136/bmj.e8539.
  5. Qin C, Lv J, Guo Y, Bian Z, Si J, Yang L, et al. Associations of egg consumption with cardiovascular disease in a cohort study of 0.5 million Chinese adults. Heart. 2018 Nov;104(21):1756-1763. doi: 10.1136/heartjnl-2017-312651.
  6. Kritchevsky SB, Kritchevsky D. Egg consumption and coronary heart disease: an epidemiologic overview. J Am Coll Nutr. 2000 Oct;19(5 Suppl):549S-555S. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2000.10718979

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