Worried about whether you should be eating eggs?

The Australian Heart Foundation has the following comment regarding eggs.

Worried about whether you should be eating eggs? They’re really nutritious and it’s fine to have them regularly as part of a healthy diet. Eggs contain good quality protein, 11 vitamins and minerals, and are a source of healthy fats including omega-3 fats.

One egg has about 5 g of fat – but most of this is unsaturated, a fat that you need to be healthy. An egg contains only about 1.5 g of saturated fat and no trans fat.

As part of a healthy balanced diet you can eat up to 6 eggs each week without increasing your risk of heart disease.[1]

The website has a number of delicious egg-based recipes.

How was this figure of 6 eggs a week obtained? The dietary recommendations for cholesterol is 200 mg / day. (Let’s assume that this is a valid recommendation.)

SizeWeight
Medium42 to 49.9 grams
Large50 to 58.9 grams
Extra Large59 to 66.9 grams
Jumbo67 to 71.9 grams
Extra Jumbo72 to 78 grams

Based on this table, a 50 g egg is a not a large egg. One not very large egg contains 180 mg of cholesterol. If 200 mg of cholesterol is an acceptable daily limit of cholesterol, then that only allows one egg per day and only a very minimal amount of any other food which contains cholesterol.

A study of 21,327 participants from the Physicians’ Health Study 1 [2] examined the role of egg consumption on health. The result from a 20 year average follow-up showed a significant correlation between egg consumption and all-cause mortality.

Egg consumption was divided into 5 categories – less than 1 egg per week, 1 egg per week, 2-4 eggs, 5-6 eggs per week and 7 or more eggs per week. Physicians consuming 7 or more eggs per week had a 31% increase in all-cause mortality compared with those consuming less than 1 egg per week. With diabetic physicians, the association was much higher with the increase in mortality doubled.

Another study[3] showed men who consumed 2.5 or more eggs per week had an 81% increased risk of lethal prostate cancer compared with men who consumed less than 0.5 eggs per week.

Egg consumption has doubled in China in the 15 years from 1989-2004.[4] Compared with people eating less than 2 eggs/week, the prevalence of diabetes was 1.75 greater for those eating 2–6/week and 2.28 times greater for those eating 1 egg or more per day. Also, plasma triglyceride and total cholesterol levels were significantly higher in women who consumed 2 eggs/week than those who consumed eggs less often.

A study[5], co-authored by David Jenkins of Glycemic Index fame, showed that “carotid plaque area increased linearly with age after age 40, but increased exponentially with pack-years of smoking and with egg-yolk years.” That is correct – egg-yolks increase plaques exponentially.

Recall that Michael Brown, the Nobel Prize winner who discovered the mechanism for the removal of cholesterol from the blood by LDL receptors on the liver, stated that heart disease (for those with normal genes) is completely preventable. There is no need for anyone to have carotid plaque.


The nutrition advice found on the same Heart Foundation web page states that the 50 g egg contains

about 5 g of fat – but most of this is unsaturated, a fat that you need to be healthy. An egg contains only about 1.5 g of saturated fat and no trans fat.

About 63% of the energy from eggs is obtained from fat with 18% from saturated fat. 36% of the energy is obtain from protein. Eggs contain no fibre. Eggs cannot be considered a low-fat food.

Foods are more than simple the sum of their fat, protein, carbohydrate and cholesterol components. Eggs also contain choline. Bacteria in our intestines transforms choline into trimethylamine-n-oxide (TMAO). There is a significant link to TMAO levels in the blood and prostate cancer, strokes, heart attack and mortality. [6] Carnitine is another substance, similar in structure to choline that results in an increase in TMAO. Carnitine is found in energy drinks.

Footnotes

  1. National Heart Foundation of Australia (n.d.) Eggs – The Heart Foundation [online]. Available from: http://heartfoundation.org.au/healthy-eating/food-and-nutrition/protein-foods/eggs (Accessed 18 February 2016)
  2. Djoussé, L. & Gaziano, J. M. (2008) Egg consumption in relation to cardiovascular disease and mortality: the Physicians’ Health Study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. (87), 964–969.
  3. Richman, E. L. et al. (2011) Egg, Red Meat, and Poultry Intake and Risk of Lethal Prostate Cancer in the Prostate-Specific Antigen-Era: Incidence and Survival. Cancer Prevention Research. 4 (12), 2110–2121. 
  4. Shi, Z. et al. (2011) Egg consumption and the risk of diabetes in adults, Jiangsu, China. Nutrition. 27 (2), 194–198.
  5. Spence, J. D. et al. (2012) Egg yolk consumption and carotid plaque. Atherosclerosis. 224 (2), 469–473.
  6. Richmann, E. L. et al. (2012) Choline intake and risk of lethal prostate cancer: incidence and survival. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 96 (4), 855–863.