Are Eggs Bad for LDL Cholesterol?

Reviewed on 3/4/2022
Three cracked eggs being cooked in a frying pan
The cholesterol content of one large egg yolk is 186 milligrams and does not have a significant effect on cholesterol levels in the blood.

According to a study by the United State Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Agricultural Research Service, the cholesterol content of one large egg is 186 milligrams. All the cholesterol is in the yolk. 

However, the cholesterol in eggs does not seem to have a significant effect on cholesterol levels in the blood.

Most people, even those who have high LDL cholesterol levels, can eat eggs as part of a healthy diet low in saturated fat. Three to four eggs per week shouldn’t impact LDL cholesterol levels in the blood significantly, but talk to your doctor or dietician about whether eating eggs, especially egg yolks, is right for you. 

What's Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that functions to help support cell membranes, manufacture hormones, aid in digestion, and convert vitamin D in the skin.

Cholesterol scores usually contain three measurements:

  • Low density lipoproteins (LDL)
    • “Bad” cholesterol
    • Too much LDL can accumulate in the artery walls and form plaque that narrows arteries and restricts blood flow, leading to coronary artery disease
    • High levels of LDL cholesterol increase the risk of stroke and heart attack
  • High density lipoproteins (HDL
    • “Good” cholesterol
    • HDL removes LDL cholesterol from the bloodstream and the artery walls
    • A higher HDL score is desirable 
  • Triglycerides 
    • The most common form of fat in the body
    • Can be an energy source
    • High triglycerides carry an increased risk of developing coronary artery disease

How to Lower Your Cholesterol

Too much saturated fat can raise blood cholesterol levels, so it’s more important to limit the amount of saturated fat in the diet. The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat in the diet to less than 6% of daily calories and minimizing consumption of trans fats.

Foods to avoid if you have high cholesterol include: 

  • Tropical oils such as coconut oil and palm oil
  • Fatty meats
  • Processed meats
  • Red meat
  • Full fat dairy products
  • Fried foods
  • Many fast foods and frozen foods
  • Salty foods (foods high in sodium)
  • Sugar-sweetened foods 
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages

Foods to eat if you have high cholesterol include: 

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Nuts
  • Nontropical vegetable oils

The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan promoted by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute is considered a heart-healthy approach. 

Treatment for high cholesterol begins with lifestyle changes. 

Medications used to treat high cholesterol include: 

  • Statins (HMG CoA reductase inhibitors)
  • Ezetimibe (cholesterol absorption inhibitors)
  • Bile acid sequestrants (also called bile acid-binding agents)
  • PCSK9 inhibitors to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol
  • Adenosine triphosphate-citrate lyase (ACL) inhibitors
  • Fibrates
  • Niacin (nicotinic acid), a B vitamin 
  • Omega-3 fatty acid ethyl esters
  • Marine-derived omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA)

What Causes High LDL Cholesterol?

The body naturally produces cholesterol in the liver, which makes up about 75% of the cholesterol in the body. For most people, elevated cholesterol levels come from foods we eat and an unhealthy lifestyle. 

Lifestyle factors that can negatively affect cholesterol levels include:

In some cases, high cholesterol is genetic. Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) runs in families and increases the risk for premature atherosclerotic heart disease.

How Is High LDL Cholesterol Diagnosed?

The American Heart Association recommends adults 20 years and older have their cholesterol levels checked every four to six years. 

Cholesterol levels are checked with a blood test, which may be a “fasting” or “non-fasting” lipoprotein profile. A fasting test usually means not eating, drinking certain beverages, or taking medications between 9 and 12 hours before the cholesterol test.

People who do not have heart disease should aim for the following cholesterol levels:

  • Total cholesterol below 200 mg/dL
    • Levels above 200 mg/dL are considered high and mean a higher risk for developing heart disease
  • LDL cholesterol below 130 mg/dL
    • Or much lower for those at risk of heart attacks or stroke
  • HDL cholesterol above 60 mg/dL
    • HDL levels of 60 mg/dL and higher can help reduce the risk for heart disease
    • HDL levels of 40 mg/dL and lower are considered a risk factor for developing heart disease
  • Triglycerides below 150 mg/dL
    • Levels higher than 150 mg/dL increase the risk of developing heart disease and metabolic syndrome, which is also a risk factor for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke 
  • Non-HDL cholesterol below 160 mg/dL
    • This is the total cholesterol minus the HDL cholesterol
    • Or lower for those at risk of heart attacks or stroke

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

Reviewed on 3/4/2022
Image Source: iStock Images