Cholesterol in eggs: can it kill you?

Please note : Reliable evidence based medical sources have been used in compiling these facts. See the 'Sources' section here for more information.

However, this page is written as general information only. It is not intended as medical advice and should not be taken as such. If you're worried about your health you should always see your doctor.

Those of us who raise our own chickens know how delicious their eggs are. We also know that they're an excellent source of protein as well as essential vitamins and Omega-3 oil. 

But what about the level of cholesterol in eggs?

#backyardchickens #eggs #cholesterolineggs #pasturedeggs

Cholesterol in eggs: is it really as bad as you might have been led to believe?

Years ago, medical advice was that eggs - in particular yolks - were a dangerous source of cholesterol and should be avoided at all costs.

But what does the evidence show today? Should we really be worried about eating the delicious produce our chickens give us?

What exactly is cholesterol?

It's a waxy deposit made in the liver and found naturally in our body cells and in some foods. 

Let's be clear about this - cholesterol is essential to a healthy body - we need it to create Vitamin 'D' and some essential hormones, and to help us digest fat.

It's carried round the bloodstream in a kind of capsule called a 'lipid' and the liver, as well as making it, also gets rid of any excess. 

There are two types of lipid : high density (HDL) and low density (LDL). I have always remembered which is which by calling LDLs 'Little Devil Lipids'!

It's the low density lipids that do the damage.

They deposit any excess cholesterol in the blood, where medical opinion still advises that it can build up and cause heart disease.

Ideally, the lipid count should be balanced but in people who have dangerously high cholesterol, LDLs are higher than HDLs and the amount of HDL is very low.  

Cholesterol - the way it used to be : my dad's story.

How do I come to know so much about cholesterol? I have been researching and learning about it since I was ten years old. 


Because that's how old I was when my dad was diagnosed with genetic heart disease - 'Familial Hypercholesterolemia', to be exact. It means that the body creates too much cholesterol, and it's traditionally controlled with drugs. Without those drugs, my dad would have died at a very young age.

My dad - he was diagnosed with familial high cholesterol at the age of 36.My dad, who stopped eating eggs and egg products when diagnosed with Familial Hypercholesterolemia in the 1960s.

But he was also advised to completely cut out eggs and any egg related products from his diet. 

Not just 'control' - he was told to avoid them altogether, for the rest of his life. 

And he did because, as with many people of his generation, whatever a doctor told him was law. It had to be followed, to the letter.

In his later life, though, medical opinion and evidence changed and my dad was told to start eating eggs again. 


Because he had problems associated with the lack of various essential vitamins, minerals and oils they provide.  In particular, he developed osteoporosis - a known result of lack of Vitamin 'D'.

And eggs are one of the foods richest in Vitamin 'D'.

The doctors admitted that their advice, sincerely given in the 1960s because it was based on facts as they were known at the time, were no longer right.

Not eating eggs had done far more damage than eating them would have done.

Cholesterol in eggs : current thinking.

My dad's story reflects very well the changes in thinking about this subject. It's absolutely right to say that cholesterol in eggs is quite high. It always has been - and it was this thinking that caused medics to tell people with raised cholesterol levels to stop eating eggs.

But eggs are also an immensely rich source of protein and, in particular, Vitamin 'D'. Cutting them out of our diet means we have to make sure our body is getting enough from other sources.

What's more, in 2011 a United States government research project found that far from being dangerous for our health, eggs these days have 13% less cholesterol and a whopping 64% more Vitamin 'D' than eggs eaten even ten years ago. (See source).

And that study was looking at commercially farmed eggs. Imagine how much more nutritious are the eggs of chickens allowed to range freely in the sun, eating fresh food and bugs a-plenty!

A raw egg from backyard chickens - healthy and nutritious.First prize winner at the UK's National Poultry Show - a beautiful, healthy, nutritious egg!

But this fact is probably the most important recent development in terms of cholesterol in eggs ...

What many sources of information forget to say, partly because this information is the result of very recent studies, is that it's now known that eating eggs causes the body to increase HDL - 'good' cholesterol.

That's a positive advantage, because people who are at risk with elevated LDL cholesterol levels often have very low HDL count at the same time. 

It also causes the LDL - 'bad' cholesterol - cells to enlarge. That's important, because those larger 'capsules' of cholesterol are less likely to enter the artery walls and deposit the cholesterol there.


So yes, there is cholesterol in eggs. But don't be put off eating them because the information you have read is out of date and now known to be inaccurate.

Eggs are far from being bad for you. Eating them gives you many nutritional benefits including the promotion of HDL or 'good' cholesterol. 

They're an inexpensive way of eating a healthy food and, as my Home Economics qualified sister always used to tell me, a great source of complete protein.


Scrambled fresh eggs with an avocado base and smoked salmon on top.One of my favourite egg recipes: scrambled eggs, avocado and smoked salmon on a fresh Italian ciabatta. Yum!

Further reading.

If you're interested to know more detail about recent studies, this article, published in 'Science News', is an excellent source of information and links to relevant, peer-reviewed medical research papers.

For further information about whether animal fats, including those in eggs, are the real issue in heart disease, "Nourishing Traditions" by Sally Fallon is a well researched, thought-provoking book which also has some great egg recipes included. I own the Kindle version and thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

Want more information about chickens and their eggs?

Egg nutrition - the facts - link.
Egg whites - are they good for you? Link.
How to store eggs properly for optimum freshness - link.
How to tell if your eggs are fresh - link.
Choosing weeds as chicken treats - link.
All about chicken health - link.


'Egg Consumption and the risk of cardiovascular heart disease in adolescents'.  A. Soriano-Maldonado et al; Nutrición Hospitalaria, 2013.

'Saturated fat and cardiovascular disease: the discrepancy between the scientific literature and dietary advice'.
R. Hoenselaar;  Pub. National Centre for Biotechnology Information, US National Library of Medicine, August 2011.

'Learning About Familial Hypercholesterolemia'.  National Human Genome Research Institute; September 2011.

'The truth about eggs and cholesterol'.  British Heart Foundation, February 2011.

'Egg consumption and the risk of heart failure'.   Djousse and Gaziano; Physicians' Health Study, 2008.

'The impact of egg limitations on coronary heart disease risk - do the numbers add up?'  D.J. McNamara; National Center for Biotechnology Information, October 2000.

'About Cholesterol'.  The American Heart Association.

Link to Raising Happy Chickens home page.