Eggs | as healthy as they're cracked up to be?
Apr 15, 2019
In March 2019, a study was published on the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) website titled, “Associations of Dietary Cholesterol or Egg Consumption With Incident Cardiovascular Disease and Mortality”. This study was summarized with this short sentence : "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.”1
What does the latest study eggs-actly mean?
JAMA recently gave eggs a beating and I think the facts are a bit scrambled.
- This study poached from 6 different cohorts with a total of 29,615 people for 17 years. The trouble is the diet input only happened at the beginning! This eggs-cludes any changes in diet. It eggs-pected folks to accurately report on what they ate. I can’t get my clients to recall what they ate last night without a food journal, so for this study to expect that this group would be able recall it accurately is eggs-aspirating!
- What else was served with the eggs? Most folks have white toast and bacon plus cream and sugar in a coffee along with those eggs. So, could it be guilt by eggs-ociation?
- Moreover, the study did not take into account the quality of the eggs or how they were prepared, which can make all the difference for nutritional impact. Be sure to watch me this week on The Marilyn Denis Show as I share the healthiest way to prepare these eggs-ceptional nutritional gems!
All puns aside…
As a Ukrainian, my grandmother gifted me many perfectly painted eggs at Easter and explain they were a symbol of rebirth. Whether it's the Jewish tradition of eating salted eggs during Passover or the pagan tradition of gifting eggs in celebration of Spring, the egg has been honoured for 1000s of years.
So, why have eggs been touted as the villain in the prevailing war on cholesterol?
While true that the yolk of an egg contains a considerable amount of cholesterol and lipids, this is not what causes cholesterol problems in your body!
A build-up of cholesterol in the arteries is actually a cascade of events beginning with damage to the arterial wall. Your body's repair of this damage eventually leads to a waxy build up (usually from a diet high in sugar and saturated fat, not the consumption of cholesterol itself). There are many studies testing this theory and showing that eggs may actually be beneficial to you if you suffer from high cholesterol – due to their high omega fat content, protein and antioxidant properties. 2
Eggs also contain high amounts of lecithin, a phospholipid that sequesters the cholesterol in the egg and prohibits absorption through the intestinal wall. In this way, the cholesterol from the egg doesn’t get absorbed into the bloodstream.3
With an active lifestyle, don't fear eating eggs.
We have decades of clinical research demonstrating no link between egg consumption and an increased risk of heart disease!
Despite popular belief, eggs are actually a low-calorie food – about 80 calories each. The yolk of an egg contains a considerable amount of cholesterol and lipids, yet cholesterol build-up in arteries actually begins with arterial wall damage. As your body repairs arterial wall damage, it eventually leads to a waxy build-up — usually due to high blood sugar, not the consumption of cholesterol itself.
I have eaten 4 - 6 eggs a week for as long as I can remember, and according to my last medical check-up, my cholesterol was perfect.
The danger is not the cholesterol itself; the danger is the cooking method.
When you fry an egg, you oxidize the cholesterol. Oxidized cholesterol is the real culprit for causing heart disease. It's best to poach or soft-boil eggs to protect the delicate cholesterol from damage. It is also important to eat eggs from organically-raised chickens. When a bird has a happy life of eating flax seeds and seedlings from the grass, it has lower amounts of the Omega-6 fat (called Arachidonic acid) that can trigger inflammation.4 Some studies show that eggs may actually benefit you if you have high cholesterol, due to its Omega fats, protein and antioxidants.5 Eggs also contain high amounts of lecithin, which blocks cholesterol in the egg and stops intestinal absorption, keeping it out of your bloodstream.6
Eggs should be avoided if you suffer from gallbladder issues.
Cholesterol forms crystals in your gallbladder which, in turn, may become gallstones. Symptoms include pain in your upper right abdomen, gas, nausea, abdominal discomfort after meals, chronic diarrhea or constipation and fatigue after rich meals. Clinical research has shown that eggs can cause gallstone attacks after consumption, making eggs one of the major foods that should be avoided if you have gallstone disease.
Is there a nutritional difference between brown eggs and white eggs?
No! The colour of the hen determines the colour of the egg. Brown-feathered hens with red lobes lay brown eggs, and white-feathered hens with white lobes lay white eggs. The American Egg Board says there is no conclusive research that one colour is nutritionally better than the other.
Five Egg-cellent Facts
1. Eggs can prevent macular degeneration.
Eggs contain the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which prevent free-radical damage to your eyes as you age. These are the same antioxidants that prevent damage to your arteries from free radicals.7
2. Egg yolks have Vitamin D.
Consuming enough Vitamin D during pregnancy could decrease a child’s chances of developing multiple sclerosis as an adult, so make sure you eat the whole egg.8
3. Eggs help keep your appetite in check.
Eggs are high in the amino acid, tryptophan
, which is used to synthesize serotonin (feel-good hormone) in your brain and induce the feeling of satiety
, leading to lower calorie consumption.9
4. Eggs are high in antioxidants.
Eggs have a lot of selenium, which is used to create one of your body's most powerful antioxidants : superoxide dismutase (SOD). Selenium is also fortified into feed to boost hens' immunity and increase the selenium content of their eggs.10
5. Eggs are rich in brain-building choline.
Eggs are high in choline, a B vitamin shown to help reduce inflammation. In a 2010 study, subjects with a diet deficient in choline typically had 20-percent higher levels of inflammatory cytokines, meaning that they experienced increased inflammation and pain.11
Are all eggs created equal? What do egg labels mean?
Conventional eggs often don't have their harvesting practices labelled, and are usually the least expensive. In conventional systems, four hens are typically housed in two-square-foot battery cages
, in barns containing thousands of birds. This makes them prone to injury and infection, so they receive antibiotics daily, as well as hormones to increase egg production. Their feed is unregulated, so they're often fed leftover animal by-products mixed with grain. Battery cages are banned in the EU
and are often the subject of animal-rights debates.
Free-run hens are not confined to life in a cage; they're allowed to roam the floor of the barn. They are still densely packed into these barns with no required outdoor access. Free-run hens eat the same feed as conventionally raised hens, and are given antibiotics and hormones.
Free-range hens must have access to the outdoors for the majority of the year, with a roost area for resting. Their feed can't contain antibiotics or hormones, and the roosts must have at least two square feet per hen. The government does not regulate free-range egg farms, so you must trust the farmers. Some farmers call these eggs “antibiotic-free" or "naturally-raised.”
Pastured hens are kept in cages with at least two square feet per hen. The structure containing the hens is moved to different areas of the grass daily so the hens can forage for at least 20 percent of their food. They are also not allowed to be fed antibiotics or hormones in their supplemental feed.
Hens must be raised from birth on organic feed that contain no hormones, pesticides or genetically modified organisms. They must have outdoor access year-round; when they are kept inside, they must be fed organic sprouted grains. They must also be allocated at least two square feet of floor space per bird.
Baking substitutes for egg allergies & intolerances
Any food you are allergic to becomes inflammatory. You may want to consider food sensitivity testing for eggs to understand your body's connection to eggs. Need help with your favourite recipe?
Possible substitutions for one (1) egg
• 1/2 of a medium banana, mashed
• 1/4 cup of applesauce (or other puréed fruit)
• 1 tbsp ground flaxseed mixed with 3 tbsp warm water; let stand 1 minute before using
Another allergy option... try eggs from other birds!
You could develop an allergy to chicken eggs and still tolerate eggs from exotic birds very well. Quail, duck, ostrich and emu eggs are becoming more popular at Farmers Markets and are often grown on small farms where the birds eat better and, therefore, supply healthier eggs. A good example, that's easy-to-find in Farmers Markets and Asian supermarkets, is quail eggs. Quail eggs contain 140% of Vitamin B1, compared to only 50% in chicken eggs. Vitamin B1 (aka Thiamine) deficiency can cause optic neuropathology, a condition called Beriberi (involving neurological, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal systems), malaise, weight loss, irritability and confusion. Quail eggs are also higher iron and potassium. Iron is essential in binding to protein and carrying oxygen in the blood. Low potassium intake can present in the form of muscle weakness, muscle cramps and/or constipation.
Zhong, Victor, Van Horn, Linda, Cornelis, Marilyn: Associations of Dietary Cholesterol or Egg Consumption With Incident Cardiovascular Disease and Mortality” JAMA. 2019;321(11):1081-1095. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.1572, March 19, 2019 https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2728487
Njike, Valentine, Faridi, Zubaida, Dutta, Suparna, Gonzalez-Simon, Anjelica and Katz, David: “Daily egg consumption in hyperlipidemic adults - Effects on endothelial function and cardiovascular risk.” Njike et al. Nutrition Journal. September 28, 2010 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2904713/pdf/1475-2891-9-28.pdf
Koo, Sung I., Molina, Marcia: “Why Eggs Don't Contribute Much Cholesterol To Diet.” Daily University Science News. October 29, 2001 http://www.unisci.com/stories/20014/1029013.htm
- DrDoc Online: “The Arachidonic Acid Pathway.”
- Valentine Njike1, Zubaida Faridi1, Suparna Dutta3, Anjelica L Gonzalez-Simon4 and David L Katz: “Daily egg consumption in hyperlipidemic adults - Effects on endothelial function and cardiovascular risk.” Njike et al. Nutrition Journal 2010
- Sung I. Koo, Marcia Molina: “Why Eggs Don't Contribute Much Cholesterol To Diet.” Daily University Science News 29-Oct-2001
- Vishwanathan R, Goodrow-Kotyla EF, Wooten BR, Wilson TA, Nicolosi RJ: “Consumption of 2 and 4 egg yolks/d for 5 wk increases macular pigment concentrations in older adults with low macular pigment taking cholesterol-lowering statins.” Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Nov;90(5):1272-9. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.28013. Epub 2009 Sep 16.
- Athol Kent: “Multiple Sclerosis and Vitamin D.” Rev Obstet Gynecol. 2010 Summer; 3(3): 141. PMCID: PMC3046757
- “Eating behavior and adherence to dietary prescriptions in obese adult subjects treated with 5-hydroxytryptophan.” Am J Clin Nutr 1992 56: 5 863-7
- Utterback PL1, Parsons CM, Yoon I, Butler J: “Effect of supplementing selenium yeast in diets of laying hens on egg selenium content.” Poult Sci. 2005 Dec;84(12):1900-1.
- Yong-ping Mu, Tomohiro Ogawa and Norifumi Kawada: “Reversibility of fibrosis, inflammation, and endoplasmic reticulum stress in the liver of rats fed a methionine–choline-deficient diet.” Laboratory Investigation (2010) 90, 245–256