For many years, health experts issued guidelines that warned the public to limit egg consumption because of the high amount of dietary cholesterol in the yolks. Research has shown that it may be OK for many people to regularly enjoy eggs, including the yolks.
However, it isn't always easy to figure out how many eggs are safe to consume on a daily basis. The overall composition of your diet may be more important than how many eggs you eat when determining your risk for disease.
Most people can safely consume one egg a day without adverse health effects. However, if you have diabetes or high cholesterol, talk to your doctor for specific recommendations.
Eggs and Heart Disease Risk
Each large egg has about 186 milligrams of cholesterol. It was recommended that people limit their cholesterol consumption to no more than 300 milligrams each day for a long time, but the "Scientific Report" of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee no longer makes this recommendation. In fact, the committee notes that dietary cholesterol isn't a nutrient at risk of over-consumption.
In healthy people, eating as much as one egg per day doesn't increase the risk of heart disease or stroke, according to a review article published in the British Medical Journal in January 2013. People with diabetes, however, may experience an increased risk at this consumption level.
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in September 2015 had slightly different results, showing no increased risk of stroke or heart attack when at least one egg a day was eaten, but showing an increased risk for heart failure in men — but not women — at this rate of consumption.
Eggs and Diabetes Risk
Research results regarding egg consumption and diabetes risk are conflicting. Although a meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in July 2013 found that eating eggs didn't increase the risk for heart disease in healthy people, it did find a potential increased risk for Type 2 diabetes for those who ate at least one egg per day.
Another analysis, published in Diabetes Care in February 2009, found a slightly increased risk for diabetes even at lower levels of consumption than one egg per day, in both men and women. On the other hand, a systematic review published in Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: Targets and Therapy in March 2014 reported that some types of diets that include eggs could lower the risk for both metabolic syndrome and Type 2 diabetes.
Eggs and Overall Mortality Risk
While a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2008 found that egg consumption wasn't associated with the risk of heart disease, it did find that people who ate seven or more eggs had a slightly higher mortality risk. In diabetics, this risk of mortality was twice as high in those who ate seven or more eggs per week as compared to those who ate less than one egg per week.
Eggs in the Overall Diet
A study published in the journal Metabolism in March 2013 noted that people with metabolic syndrome showed improvements to their cholesterol levels and experienced less insulin resistance when they ate a whole egg each day as part of a diet that contained no more than 30 percent of energy from carbohydrates.
Another study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition in February 2011, found that people with Type 2 diabetes who ate two eggs per day had greater improvements in cholesterol than people who ate 3.5 ounces of lean protein instead of eggs and also improved blood pressure and blood sugar control and lost weight. Both groups followed a reduced calorie diet, getting 40 percent of calories from carbohydrates and 30 percent of calories from each protein and fat.
These results seem to back up the recommendation of a review article published in the journal Nutrients in September 2015, which noted that egg consumption can't be taken into consideration alone — it is the entire diet that needs to be taken into account.
Type of Eggs
Choosing free-range eggs is best when you have the option, as these eggs tend to be more nutritious. These eggs may be lower in saturated fat and cholesterol than regular eggs as well as providing more of the essential nutrients, including beta carotene, omega-3 fats and vitamins A and E.
Those who wish to eat more than one egg per day may want to use a mix of whole eggs and egg whites to lower any potential risks, as the cholesterol in the yolk is thought to be responsible for any increased health risks from eating eggs.
- Metabolism: "Whole Egg Consumption Improves Lipoprotein Profiles and Insulin Sensitivity to a Greater Extent Than Yolk-Free Egg Substitute in Individuals With Metabolic Syndrome"
- British Medical Journal: "Egg Consumption and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease and Stroke: Dose-Response Meta-Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies"
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "Egg Consumption in Relation to Risk of Cardiovascular Disease and Diabetes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis"
- Diabetes Care: "Egg Consumption and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in Men and Women"
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "Egg Consumption in Relation to Cardiovascular Disease and Mortality: The Physicians’ Health Study"
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "Egg Consumption and Risk of Heart Failure, Myocardial Infarction, and Stroke: Results From 2 Prospective Cohorts"
- Nutrients: "Egg Consumption and Human Cardio-Metabolic Health in People With and Without Diabetes"
- British Journal of Nutrition: "Egg Consumption as Part of an Energy-Restricted High-Protein Diet Improves Blood Lipid and Blood Glucose Profiles in Individuals With Type 2 Diabetes"
- Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: "Targets and Therapy: Egg Consumption and Cardiovascular Disease Among Diabetic Individuals: A Systematic Review of the Literature"
- USDA: "National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Legacy Release: Basic Report: 01123, Egg, Whole, Raw, Fresh"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Unscrambling the Message on Eggs"