PhotoBy now, everyone knows that cigarette smoking is bad for your health and can accelerate atherosclerosis, also called coronary artery disease.

New research suggests that eating egg yolks can do the same thing. Dr. David Spence of Western University in Canada says that after surveying about 1200 test subjects, he concluded that regular consumption of egg yolks is about two-thirds as bad as smoking when it comes to increased build-up of carotid plaque, a risk factor for stroke and heart attack.

The research is published online in the journal Atherosclerosis.

Lots of cholesterol in egg yolks

Atherosclerosis is a dangerous disorder that can be aggravated by cholesterol. The cholesterol, highly present in egg yolks, aids plaque forming in arteries. When this plaque breaks off, it causes heart attacks and strokes.

Spense studied men and women with a median age of 61.5 years who were attending a heart health conference, so all felt they had a heightened risk of vascular issues. The survey measured, among other things, their years of smoking and the number of egg yolks they consumed per week, both currently and in the past.

Here's what he found: areas of plague increased in people after they turned 60 years old. But they increased the most for people who smoked and people who ate egg yolks.

The study also found those eating three or more yolks a week had significantly more plaque area than those who ate two or fewer yolks per week.

"The mantra 'eggs can be part of a healthy diet for healthy people' has confused the issue," Spence said. "It has been known for a long time that a high cholesterol intake increases the risk of cardiovascular events, and egg yolks have a very high cholesterol content. In diabetics, an egg a day increases coronary risk by two to five-fold."

As you age, go easy on egg yolks

The lesson is that, as you get older, you shouldn't smoke and you shouldn't eat egg yolks since they have lots of cholesterol. Spence says the effect of egg yolk consumption over time on increasing the amount of plaque in the arteries was not influenced by sex, cholesterol, blood pressure, smoking, body mass index and diabetes.

While he says more research is needed in this area, Spence says he people at risk of cardiovascular disease shouldn't wait for further results. It's best, he says, if they avoid regular consumption of egg yolks altogether.

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