News Release 

Moderate egg consumption not associated with higher cardiovascular disease risk

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Boston, MA - Consuming up to one egg per day does not appear to be associated with cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk, according to a new study and meta-analysis led by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

"Recent studies reignited the debate on this controversial topic, but our study provides compelling evidence supporting the lack of an appreciable association between moderate egg consumption and cardiovascular disease," said first author Jean-Philippe Drouin-Chartier, visiting scientist in the Department of Nutrition and assistant professor at Laval University in Québec, Canada. The study will be published online March 4, 2020 in the BMJ.

The relationship between egg consumption and CVD risk has been a topic of intense debate in the scientific community in recent decades. Just in the past 12 months, three published studies have reported conflicting results.

The new findings update a 1999 study--the first major analysis of eggs and cardiovascular disease--that found no association between eggs and CVD risk. That study was led by Frank Hu, Fredrick J. Stare Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology, chair of the Department of Nutrition, and a co-author of the current study.

For this study, researchers analyzed health data from 173,563 women and 90,214 men participating in the Nurses' Health Study (NHS) I and II, and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (HPFS) who were free of CVD, type 2 diabetes, and cancer at baseline. They used repeated measures of diet during up to 32 years of follow-up to gain a detailed picture of potentially confounding lifestyle factors such as high body mass index and red meat consumption. The researchers also conducted the largest meta-analysis of this topic, including 28 prospective cohort studies with up to 1.7 million participants.

The analysis of NHS and HPFS participants found no association between moderate egg consumption and risk of CVD. Results from the meta-analysis supported this finding in U.S. and European populations; however, some evidence suggested that moderate egg consumption may be associated with lower CVD risk in Asian populations although this may be confounded by the overall dietary pattern.

Study co-author Shilpa Bhupathiraju, research scientist in the Harvard Chan School Department of Nutrition and associate epidemiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital, said that while moderate egg consumption can be part of a healthy eating pattern, it is not essential. "There is a range of other foods that can be included in a healthy breakfast, such as whole grain toasts, plain yogurt, and fruits."

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Other Harvard Chan School authors of the study included Siyu Chen, Yanping Li, Amanda Schwab, Meir Stampfer, Frank Sacks, Bernard Rosner, and Walter Willett.

The NHS, NHS II and HPFS cohorts are supported by the following National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants: P01 CA87969, R01 HL034594, R01 HL088521, UM1 CA186107, UM1 CA176726, UM1 CA167552, R01 HL35464, R01 HL60712, U01 CA167552. Drouin-Chartier is supported by a Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (BPF-156628). Hu is supported by grants HL60712, HL118264, and DK112940 from the NIH. Bhupathiraju is supported by a Career Development Grant from the NIH (K01 DK107804).

"Egg Consumption and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease: Findings from Three Large Prospective US Cohort Studies and a Systematic Review and Updated Meta-Analysis," Jean-Philippe Drouin-Chartier, Siyu Chen, Yanping Li, Amanda Schwab, Meir Stampfer, Frank Sacks, Bernard Rosner, Walter C. Willett, Frank B. Hu, Shilpa N. Bhupathiraju, BMJ, online March 4, 2020, doi: 10.1136/bmj.m513

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Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health brings together dedicated experts from many disciplines to educate new generations of global health leaders and produce powerful ideas that improve the lives and health of people everywhere. As a community of leading scientists, educators, and students, we work together to take innovative ideas from the laboratory to people's lives--not only making scientific breakthroughs, but also working to change individual behaviors, public policies, and health care practices. Each year, more than 400 faculty members at Harvard Chan School teach 1,000-plus full-time students from around the world and train thousands more through online and executive education courses. Founded in 1913 as the Harvard-MIT School of Health Officers, the School is recognized as America's oldest professional training program in public health.

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