by EBSCO Medical Review Board

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. It is a buildup of plaque in blood vessels that leads to poor blood flow to the heart. High cholesterol levels in the blood is one factor associated with heart disease. Foods high in cholesterol, such as red meats and eggs, were often thought to increase cholesterol levels in the blood. However, in the last few years some studies have suggested that foods high in cholesterol do not increase blood cholesterol in everyone.

Researchers wanted to look at the link between consuming dietary cholesterol or eggs and heart disease and early death. The study, published in JAMA, found that a higher intake of dietary cholesterol or eggs was linked to an increased risk of heart disease and early death.

About the Study

The study included 29,615 adults from 6 prospective cohort studies in the United States. The average age of adults in the study was 51 years old. The adults were enrolled in the study between 1985 and 2016. The average follow-up time was 17.5 years.

Most organizations recommend that healthy people consume no more than 300 milligrams of cholesterol per day. This study found that consuming 300 milligrams of dietary cholesterol per day was associated with a:

  • 3.2% higher risk of heart disease
  • 4.4% higher risk of early death

One large egg contains about 186 milligrams of cholesterol. Each additional half an egg consumed per day was significantly associated with a:

  • 1.1% higher risk of heart disease
  • 1.9% higher risk of early death

How Does This Affect You?

Cohort studies are observational studies. These studies simply watch events as they happen, but do not interfere or bring in factors that can change the result. This means the study cannot prove that dietary cholesterol like eggs cause heart disease and early death. It can only suggest a link. Studies about dietary habits and effect on disease process have rarely been clear. Most use self reports from participants which may not be reliable. Observational studies also do not control number of other factors that can affect heart disease risk. Past studies have looked into egg consumption and heart disease, but the results have been inconsistent. It may be due to differences in how each body processes cholesterol from food.

Eating eggs from time to time may not pose a health problem. But if you eat three or more a week and are already at risk for stroke or heart disease, then you may want to think about cutting back. Talk to your doctor about your plan to manage cholesterol.


American Heart Association 

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians 


Dietary considerations for cardiovascular disease prevention. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: . Updated February 19, 2019. Accessed March 26, 2019.

Zhong VW, Van Horn L, et al. Associations of dietary cholesterol or egg consumption with incident cardiovascular disease and mortality. JAMA. 2019;321(11):1081-1095.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board
  • Review Date: 03/2019