If you use food science to guide your diet and health, are eggs going to be on your plate?
The consumer pendulum has swung widely with an average of 400 eggs per person per year in 1945 that dropped to 229 in view of concerns over dietary cholesterol and heart disease. The current numbers show that annual egg consumption has climbed back to 279 or 5–6 eggs a week.
A study made headlines this week indicating that egg consumption was associated with the risk of developing heart disease. Let’s take a look.
The New Study That Made Headlines
Four university centers pooled data from 6 prospective studies in the USA and followed patients for 17.5 years.This analysis included 29 615 participants (mean age, 5r years at baseline) of whom 13,299 (44%) were men. There were 5,400 incident CVD events and 6,132 all-cause deaths. Each additional 300 mg of dietary cholesterol consumed per day was significantly associated with higher risk of incident CVD (adjusted HR, 1.17) or a 17% relative increase and all-cause mortality (adjusted HR, 1.18]) or an 18% relative increase. Each additional half an egg consumed per day was significantly associated with higher risk of incident CVD (adjusted HR, 1.06) and all-cause mortality (adjusted HR, 1.08 ).
The researchers concluded that among US adults, higher consumption of dietary cholesterol or eggs was significantly associated with higher risk of incident CVD and all-cause mortality in a dose-response manner. These results should be considered in the development of dietary guidelines and updates.
Prior Egg Studies
1) Eggs and Diabetes Mellitus
Researchers in Australia enrolled 128 subjects with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes as part of a weight loss study and randomized them to <2 eggs/week or >12 eggs/week. The end points were lab values for cardiac markers like glucose control, cholesterol, inflammation, and oxidative stress. At the end of the 9 months, there were no differences in the lab markers. Headlines like “eggs are safe for diabetics and heart health” were found in news feeds worldwide.
What was not mentioned in most of the news reports was the funding of the study by the Australian Egg Corporation and authors had received research grants from the Egg Nutrition Council. Also overlooked was the study design wherein those subjects assigned to the low egg group were instructed to increase their protein by more meat, chicken, fish, dairy, and legumes.
2) Eggs and Heart Disease
Researchers in Korea conducted a prospective cohort study of 9,248 Korean adults without cardiovascular diseases (CVD) or cancer at baseline and followed them for 7.3 years. During follow up, 570 cases of CVD were diagnosed. In the group with type 2 diabetes the consumption of 4 eggs/week vs none increased the risk of developing CVD by 2.8 times (280% increase). This assocation was not found in those without diabetes.
3) Eggs and Congestive heart failure
In a prospective study of approximately 70,000 Swedes, eating an egg a day or more was associated with an 30-percent increased risk of congestive heart failure.
4) Another Eggs and Diabetes
A large analysis of eggs found that diabetics who eat eggs have a 50-percent increased risk of coronary heart disease.
5) Even More Eggs and Diabetes Mellitus
According to a meta-analysis of more than 200,000 subjects, people who eat three eggs a week have an increased risk of developing diabetes.
6) Eggs and Death
Diabetic patients who eat a large quantity of eggs double the risk of dying compared to those eating fewer eggs, so says a prospective study.
7) Eggs and Carotid Artery Disease
In a prospective study of 1,262 persons undergoing serial ultrasound examinations of the carotid arteries to the brain, egg yolk consumption was correlated with increased amounts of carotid plaque.
8) Eggs and Prostate cancer
A pooled study found that increased egg intake — along with red meat — was associated with a 14-percent increase in advanced and fatal prostate cancers.
9) Eggs and Breast cancer
According to a meta-analysis that looked at eating eggs, consuming more than nine eggs a week was associated with a nine-percent increased risk of breast cancer.
10) Eggs and Ovarian cancer
In a meta-analysis, egg consumption was found to relate to a 22-percent increased risk of ovarian cancer.
11) Eggs and Colon cancer
In an analysis of more than 400,000 subjects, egg consumption correlated with the development of gastrointestinal cancers, especially a 25-percent increase in colon cancer.
12) Eggs and TMAO
Trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) is a molecule that causes cardiovascular and kidney disease and is related to the ingestion of certain foods. For example, in a research study, eating eggs increased TMAO in the blood significantly.
What will you do the next time you are at a café and the choice is oatmeal or fried eggs? A fruit plate or a frittata?
As a medical doctor, if you are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, I would reach for the plant option not the ovum. In addition, if you have ovaries, a colon, a prostate, breasts, a pancreas, a heart, arteries, or a pulse, think long and hard about the wealth of data that says the best egg meal is the one you skip over.