This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, so the post has been reproduced here.
CONTROVERSY OVER EATING TOO MANY EGGS CONTINUES WITH RECENT STUDY
If your neck got sore last week after hearing the report that eating too many eggs might be bad for your arteries, blame it on whiplash. The reemergence of bad news about good foods always leaves me feeling like I’ve been hit from behind, too.
Fortunately, there’s relief in the facts.
The Hard Boiled Truth
First, I want to disclose that I’m a big fan of eggs. Chicken eggs in the shell are a 100% natural, nutrient-dense, low cost food that are widely available and highly versatile in the culinary world. I cannot think of another food that delivers so much value for just $0.20 apiece.
I will come to the defense of eggs whenever they are under attack because I know we have a lot to lose if we let this fragile but mighty food get knocked out of our diets without good cause.
Headlines Scramble the Details
The latest study linking eggs to clogged arteries was done at Western University in Ontario, Canada and published online Monday in the journal Atherosclerosis. The headlines covering the research said eating too many egg yolks was as bad for your heart as smoking cigarettes. That really got me riled because I really don’t like tobacco products.
So I looked into the details of the study, not just the news coverage about it. Here are the facts that once again back up my defense of eggs.
- The study was observational, not designed to prove cause and effect.
- The subjects were people at risk for heart disease and smokers, not a random, healthy population.
- Subjects answered questions about how many eggs they ate, smoking history, and some other lifestyle factors, but none about the rest of their diet, exercise habits, or alcohol use.
- Plaque build-up was similar between those who ate the most egg yolks and those who smoked the most, but the egg eaters did not have higher total cholesterol and bad (LDL) cholesterol or lower good (HDL) cholesterol levels compared to those who ate fewer eggs.
Sunny Side of the Story
What this means is that the researchers did not ask enough questions to be able to explain why the people who enjoyed eggs the most had more plaque in their carotid arteries. It could be they ate their eggs with other foods high in saturated fat, like bacon and sausage, which do clog arteries. Maybe they did not eat many fruits and vegetables rich in protective antioxidants. Or it’s possible they did a poor job of estimating the number of eggs they actually ate in their lifetime. Do you know how many eggs you’ve ever eaten?
What the research did show is that eating eggs improves the overall blood cholesterol profile, but that was nowhere to be found in the headline.
My take-away is this retrospective study of 1262 people based on survey data does not outweigh the results of a prospective study done at Harvard with more than 100,000 subjects. It found no significant difference in cardiovascular risk between those consuming one egg per week and those eating an egg a day.
That means eggs will remain a regular part of my diet, how about yours?