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Dietary Cholesterol Isn't Actually Bad for Your Heart

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Get ready to crack an egg. Eating high-cholesterol foods doesn't actually increase your risk for coronary heart disease, according to a new study from the University of Eastern Finland. (Psst...We have Your Guide to Buying the Healthiest Eggs.)

Say what? We know you've long heard that cholesterol is bad for your heart. Which is true. But there's a difference between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol—and recent research debunks that whole high-cholesterol-foods-will-kill-you myth. 

"There is quite good data that in most people dietary cholesterol intake has only a modest impact on blood cholesterol levels," says Jyrki Virtanen, Ph.D., lead author of the study. "Dietary cholesterol has not been found to be a significant risk factor for heart disease in generally healthy people."

Virtanen and his team of researchers looked how an egg a day might affect heart disease risk. Over a 21 year period, the researchers measured the cardiovascular health of a group of 1,000 men who had a high intake of dietary cholesterol, the equivalent of an egg a day. (May we suggest these 20 Quick and Easy Ways to Cook Eggs?)

They found that consuming a lot of dietary cholesterol—specifically from eggs—didn't affect the men's risk of coronary heart disease or impact the thickening of the carotid artery walls (another serious risk factor commonly associated with cholesterol consumption). Even more surprising, these results held up for people who were genetically more sensitive to cholesterol intake. That's a big deal.

So if not your breakfast platter, where should you be looking for cholesterol threats? According to Virtanen, fat is the biggest cholesterol culprit. "One of the most important and modifiable determinants of blood cholesterol levels is the type of fat in the diet. i.e. how much saturated fat there is in relation to unsaturated fat," he says.

Keep in mind, that the criteria for "high intake of dietary cholesterol" here was a single egg. So scarfing down a six-egg omelette every morning may still not be the best move. Like everything, enjoy your eggs in moderation. 

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