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Eggs Might Lead to Increased Heart Risk

Update Date: Apr 25, 2013 10:39 AM EDT
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In recent news, the subject of food and bacteria leading to diseases seems to be a popular subject, with new studies denouncing and promoting different types of foods. New research every day presents consumers with information regarding the safety of certain foods. Although many of the research reconfirms previous understandings of the risks with certain foods, such as red meat, the latest one is actually refuting past studies that found eggs to be healthy and safe to eat daily. According to a new study, egg yolks contain an abundant amount of lecithin, which, similarly to the compound carnitine found in red meat, can increase one's risks for heart disease.

This study, known as the Lecithin study, is a part of the larger goal of understanding how bacteria in the body can play several roles, ranging from beneficial to harmful. The study's lead researcher, Dr. Stanley Hazen, and his colleagues focused on how the heart could be affected by the existing microbes in the gut. Hazen is the chairman of the department of cellular and molecular medicine from the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute. The researchers observed how lecithin specifically gets broken down and noted that the body breaks it down into different parts, which results in the chemical choline. The chemical choline gets metabolized by intestinal bacteria, which triggers the liver to produce the chemical trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO). TMAO has been linked to an increased risk for heart attacks and strokes.

The researchers then looked at lecithin in eggs specifically. The researchers asked volunteers to eat two hard-boiled eggs. Some of the volunteers received an antibiotic that would clean out the intestinal bacteria prior to eating the eggs. The researchers discovered that the people who consumed two eggs had higher levels of TMAO in their blood, whereas the group that received the antibiotics did not. The researchers then looked into the data composed of 4,000 patients from the Cleveland Clinic and they noted that people with more TMAO had a higher chance for a heart attack or stroke within the next three years.

Although the study suggests that high levels of TMAO could be linked to the increased risk for heart disease, it did not find that reducing these levels equated to the decreased chances of heart disease. However, the researchers recommended that people who worried about their heart disease risks should consider lowering their intake of choline and lecithin.

The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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