Eggs have gone from good, to bad, back to good, and now apparently back to bad (can you keep up?).
In the past we have been told that the cholesterol in eggs is an issue. Then we were told that the effect of cholesterol from food is quite minimal, it’s not worth considering. Now the researchers are going back to the ‘be weary of eggs’ mentality.
A lengthy and large 2019 study has found that eggs have a link to heart disease. The researchers concluded that it is the cholesterol in eggs that are the link, and they have drawn this link via a single food recall survey, from (on average) 17 and a half years ago. The results from this study are that the higher your dietary cholesterol or egg intake, the higher your risk of cardiovascular disease, or all-cause mortality (death in general).
It’s a long study (following participants for an average of 17.5 years), and it’s a large study (with over 29,000 subjects), but it has one major flaw; all subjects were asked about their egg consumption once. Once only, at the beginning of the study. The health of these subjects was then followed for on average 17.5 years. Their cardiovascular health, 17.5 years later, was then measured against their egg intake 17.5 years ago!
I might be wrong, but with all the diets that come in and out of fashion, the health advice that comes and goes, and the challenges of life in general (work, travel, kids, etc.), I would expect your diet to change a little (or a lot) over 17 years.
The outcomes drawn from these subjects may very well be inappropriately related back to their egg intake, with the expectation that no subject changed the amount of eggs they ate each week over the average of 17 years that they were followed.
Seems unrealistic to me.
The other major factor to take into consideration is the design of the study itself. It was an observation study. This means that the researchers were looking for certain patterns in the study populations, but they can’t demonstrate a specific cause-and-effect. For this reason, no clear conclusion should be drawn from looking at this single piece of research alone. Realistically this paper has looked for a pattern, the researchers have suggested that they have found a pattern, and it is now up to scientists in general to examine this under a more direct spotlight.
At last look, Australia’s peak health bodies, including the National Health and Medical Research Council and the Heart Foundation of Australia, are still advocating egg consumption, encouraging 6-7 eggs per week.
And why wouldn’t they!
Eggs are a great source of protein (containing all 11 essential amino acids – the amino acids we can’t make ourselves) and are a natural source of key nutrients including omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A, E, D and B12, selenium, choline and antioxidants.
Every time you crack open an egg (and eat it) you are gaining lutein and zeaxanthin (fantastic antioxidants for eye health), selenium (great for thyroid health), choline (necessary for healthy brain, liver and nerve function), omega 3 fatty acids (essential in protecting against heart disease) and vitamin D (free range eggs are one of the few foods that naturally contain vitamin D), plus a whole lot more goodness.
Crack your eggs and eat them too.
If you are concerned or want to discuss this further, chat to our naturopaths or nutritionists for an individualised approach.
Zhong, V. W., et al. (2019). “Associations of Dietary Cholesterol or Egg Consumption With Incident Cardiovascular Disease and Mortality.” Jama 321(11): 1081-1095.