How do you like your eggs? Poached? Over easy on toast? How about scrambled with a side of bacon? Eggs make for a delicious meal, and for the past few years, we've been able to enjoy them guilt-free—even the American Heart Association (AHA) has approved one egg a day for most people. Now, headlines are blaring that eggs are evil again. Before you banish your breakfast favorite (or switch back to egg-white omelets), you should know that this research is far from the last word on eggs. Northwestern University researchers Victor W. Zhong, PhD, Linda Van Horn, PhD, and Marilyn C. Cornelis co-authored the new study. To arrive at their findings, they collected data from six previous studies that tracked the health of 29,615 adults for about 18 years on average. After compiling results from the various studies, the researchers concluded that 300 milligrams of cholesterol per day slightly raised a person's risk of heart disease and stroke. One egg contains about 186 milligrams of cholesterol—regularly eat two or more, and your heart risk would start to climb. Given that current dietary guidelines already recommend limiting yourself to one egg a day, it's hard to see what all the fuss is about. But if you're concerned, you should know that this kind of research has limitations: The study can only determine a possible link between eggs, cholesterol, and heart trouble, not that eating eggs actually caused heart trouble. Another issue with the findings is that there was only one diet report taken for each of the 29,000-plus adults—almost two decades ago. "These participants weren't given periodic questionnaires, they were given one questionnaire," says Lauren Slayton MS, RD, one of the nutritionists behind The Food Trainers newsletter. "That's like drawing conclusions about someone's fashion sense by what they wore 20 years ago." No one followed up to see if the diet reports were accurate or to find out whether people changed their diet. Frank Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told NPR: "So much data have already been published on this topic, which generally show that low-to-moderate egg consumption (no more than one egg per day) is not associated with increased risk of heart attack or stroke." Plus, there are also many other risk factors that contribute to heart disease—including these five most people don't know about. Slayton also points out that all eggs are different, and thus carry different amounts of nutrients, fats, etc. "A GMO/antibiotic fed, factory farmed egg is very different than eggs from pasture-raised chickens," she explains. "Pastured eggs have 21 times omega 3's, seven times more vitamin E, 30 percent less cholesterol and 25 percent less saturated fat."
In other words, don't feel like you have to drop eggs from your diet based on one study. If you're concerned about your cholesterol, discuss your diet with your doctor—and consider your exercise routine and other health factors, too. If your heart risk is elevated, you may want to check out the best—and worst—diets for your heart.