(HealthDay News) – Eating ≥3 egg yolks, which are high in cholesterol, per week may increase the rate of carotid plaque area build-up.

J. David Spence, MD, of the Robarts Research Institute in London, Canada, and colleagues conducted a study involving 1,262 patients (mean age, 61.5 years; 47% women) attending vascular prevention clinics to assess the effects of high cholesterol intake from egg yolks on total plaque area, as measured using duplex ultrasound. To examine the magnitude of the effect, the effect of smoking was also assessed. Patients completed questionnaires regarding lifestyle, medications, smoking, and number of egg yolks consumed per week times the number of years consumed (egg-yolk years).

The researchers found that after age 40 there was a linear increase in carotid plaque area. The increase was exponential for pack-years of smoking and egg-yolk years. For the 388 patients who consumed <2 eggs per week, the plaque area was significantly smaller than for the 603 who consumed ≥3 eggs per week (125 ± 129 mm² versus 132 ± 142 mm²).

“Our findings suggest that regular consumption of egg yolk should be avoided by persons at risk of cardiovascular disease,” the authors write. “This hypothesis should be tested in a prospective study with more detailed information about diet, and other possible confounders such as exercise and waist circumference.”

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