The British Egg Information Service has hit out at a scientific report which suggests that eating egg yolks is almost as bad as smoking.
Scientists from the University of Western Ontario, in Canada, surveyed 1,262 patients, with an average age of 61.5, from vascular prevention clinics to determine if atherosclerosis was related to high cholesterol intake from eggs. They also analysed the effect of smoking.
Atherosclerosis is a disorder where plaque build-up occurs in the arteries from eating too much cholesterol. Plaque rupture is the cause of a high number of heart attacks and strokes.
Ultrasounds were conducted to give a measurement of total plaque area and questionnaires regarding lifestyle, including the number of eggs consumed a week and pack-years of smoking.
Findings revealed that eating the yolk of an egg is two-thirds as bad as smoking. They found people who ate at least three egg yolks a week had significantly more plaque than those who ate two.
Results published in the online journal Atherosclerosis also suggested that carotid plaque increased in line with age in those patients over 40.
But BEIS says researchers failed to take into account other lifestyle factors that have an effect on cholesterol such as saturated fat intake or alcohol consumption.
A spokesperson from the BEIS said: "Those that ate at least two eggs yolks a week may have generally had poor diet that was high in saturated fat, drank heavily and done little exercise, but as full dietary data has not been presented it is not possible to be certain.
"The average age of those taking part in the study was 61.5 years and carotid plaque rises anyway after that age," they added.
As a result they said it was not valid to make "sweeping suggestions" concerning cardiovascular risk in association with one dietary component.
The BEIS added that because the study relied on self-reported consumption the data could have been unreliable.
The study's findings are polar opposites from current scientific thinking and the view of both the Department of Health and the British Heart Foundation, who advise that for most people there's no limit on the amount of eggs they can eat each week.