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Unscrambling the myths around eggs and heart health

15 Mar 2020

Yet another study has suggested no link between moderate egg consumption and heart disease risk, but despite research repeatedly finding little association between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol, many consumers continue to link eggs with heart health concerns.

The latest research, published in the BMJ, looked at associations between eggs and heart disease, heart attacks and strokes in three large studies that periodically asked participants about their dietary habits for up to 32 years. It found that people who ate up to one egg per day were no more likely to have heart disease or strokes than those who did not eat eggs.

Unscrambling the myths around eggs and heart health
Eggs are (still) not linked to heart disease

Eggs are a major source of dietary cholesterol, but they are also a nutrient-dense food, providing lean protein and a broad range of other nutrients, including folate, B vitamins and monounsaturated fatty acids that are linked to lower cardiovascular risk.

For years, people were advised to restrict egg consumption to no more than four a week – fewer for those with a history of heart disease or type 2 diabetes – because of a focus on cholesterol’s role in cardiovascular disease. Since then, a growing body of research has suggested little relationship between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol, but consumer attitudes toward eggs have proved hard to change.

Food manufacturers have taken different approaches to this challenge, but as eggs enriched with omega-3 have started to become more common, some consumers now are more willing to see eggs as a potentially heart healthy food. On the other side of the equation, some food companies have leveraged consumer concerns about egg consumption to rationalise the use of egg replacers. These are not necessarily concerns about heart health, but about animal welfare, rising interest in plant-based foods and general concern that animal-derived foods may be less healthy. And for manufacturers, such ingredients often come with an added benefit in terms of cost.

Globally, two-thirds of shoppers say they are eating more plant-based foods and beverages, according to recent research from DuPont Nutrition & Health, meaning that such ingredients increasingly appeal to mainstream consumers. When UK-based Ulrick & Short introduced a vegan ingredient for egg replacement in baked goods, for instance, it cited growing demand for vegan foods as an opportunity for manufacturers to discover new ingredients and textures.

Despite a growing consensus among the scientific community about eggs’ favourable nutritional profile, innovations in animal-free egg alternatives look set for further growth on the back of burgeoning demand for flexitarian, plant-based, allergen-free and cruelty-free foods.

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