Research from China suggesting that eating an egg a day may reduce the risk of heart disease has been enthusiastically jumped on by some, but questioned by others.

The research, led by the University of Peking and published in the peer-reviewed journal Heart, examined the association between daily consumption of an egg and circulatory diseases, including heart attacks and stroke.

The study, which followed almost half a million people over nine years, found that people who ate an egg daily had an 11 percent lower risk of heart and circulatory disease, and an 18 percent lower risk of death from heart and circulatory disease.

This all sounds like very good news -- and has been treated as such by numerous media outlets -- but the heart charity and cardiovascular research funder British Heart Foundation (BHF) has sounded more than a note of caution on making too much of this study.

Handle with care

First, the foundation notes that all the people in the study were in one country, meaning that the findings may not be applicable outside of that country.

Additionally, it notes that the type of study conducted can only show an association rather than a cause and effect, continuing that the lower risk of disease may have been caused by something else in the diet or lifestyle of the people consuming eggs daily, rather than by the eggs themselves.

Questions also arose over how participants reported their consumption, and the association also notes that how eggs are eaten is important. Eating them fried, for example, will not deliver the same results as eating them with wholegrain bread or vegetables.

It also adds that this latest study is inconsistent with previous studies. Seven studies have found that eating up to one egg a day had no significant association with coronary heart disease compared with eating two eggs a week, suggesting that more research is needed.

It further notes that the participants in the daily egg consumption category actually only averaged three-quarters of an egg a day and that a major weakness of the study is that there was no group eating more than this, so there is no information on the effects of eating a larger number of eggs.

While some may have to curb their enthusiasm, and reconsider some of the material they have sent out pushing the findings, it is worth emphasizing that that while the BHF has questioned the study’s merits, it is not entirely critical, and certainly has not found fault with eggs themselves.

It notes that the study took other factors into account that could have given the results that they found, including alcohol consumption, smoking and physical activity, which makes the findings more reliable.

The foundation also adds that the study offered reassurance for those who like to eat eggs, saying that although eggs are often thought of a food to be avoided, advice in the U.K. is consistent with the findings of this study: Eggs can be included as part of a healthy, balanced diet.