Gerry Gajadharsingh writes:
“Not this old chestnut again! Make of it, what you will. I continue to recommend eggs as part of a balanced diet (for most people) but limiting them to 6 per week, as I have done for years. They are a great source of protein, Vitamin D and other nutrients, and much research has dished the connection to eggs raising cholesterol, but they can sometimes increase acidity when eaten in excess.
It’s no wonder that the population are simply not believing experts anymore, when so much of what is published seems contradictory. The research mentioned looks at people eating an average of 2 eggs a day (that’s 14 a week) it does not say for how long the study went on for, buts that an awful of eggs.
I suspect anything in excess will eventually cause problems, we tend to suggest not eating the same thing every day as a general principle of eating.
The latest JAMA suggests that eggs raise the risk of heart disease, but decades of research led to the NHS and BHF changing their advice and promoting eggs as a heart-healthy addition to the diet.
By the way I’d take with a pinch of salt, the view of one of the contributors, that it is still saturated fat that raises cholesterol. But then again it took “the experts” almost 20 years to accept that eating foods high in cholesterol causes high cholesterol. We live in hope.”
A new study says that eating three eggs a week is dangerous. Yet several experts explain that the opposite is true
From a food that was once demonised in our diets, eggs have spectacularly transformed their reputation in recent years. Sales have soared to 13.2 billion eggs a year (or 36 million a day) and according to a 2018 survey by Kantar Worldpanel for the British Egg Information Service, they have eclipsed avocados in the fashion stakes — the most recent example being Starbucks’s launch of the Cloud Macchiato, a foamy coffee made with egg whites.
This week, though, a study involving nearly 30,000 people found that eating three or four eggs a week increases the chance of dying from a heart attack or stroke. The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), also found that people who ate an average of two eggs a day had a 27 per cent higher risk of a heart attack or other cardiovascular episodes.
“The take-home message is really about cholesterol, which happens to be high in eggs and specifically yolks,” said Dr Norrina Allen, one of the authors and an associate professor of preventive medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. “As part of a healthy diet, people need to consume lower amounts of cholesterol. People who consume less cholesterol have a lower risk of heart disease.”
Egg yolks are indeed one of the richest sources of dietary cholesterol among commonly consumed foods: the yolk of one large egg provides 186mg of dietary cholesterol. And it is true that too much cholesterol in the bloodstream accumulates on artery walls and raises the risk of heart attacks and strokes. It’s for these reasons that for decades eggs were labelled as bad for our hearts.
However, the NHS states that “the amount of saturated fat we eat has more of an effect on the amount of cholesterol in our blood than the cholesterol we get from eating eggs” and, says Helen Bond, a dietician for the British Dietetic Association, the overwhelming scientific consensus is that the cholesterol in eggs has little effect on our heart health.
“It has been firmly established that it is not dietary cholesterol that causes blood cholesterol levels to rise, but eating a lot of foods high in saturated fats; not eggs, but butter, fatty meat products and cheese,” Bond says. “This latest study goes against every grain of published evidence used to establish the current guidelines by the NHS and British Heart Foundation (BHF) regarding egg consumption which suggest that, for most people, it is a good thing to eat them.”
There are limitations to the American study, Bond adds. “It doesn’t show cause and effect, that eggs are the direct reason for heart problems. The study doesn’t look at how the eggs people ate were prepared, whether people were cooking them with lots of butter and cream, or whether the egg eaters who suffered heart disease had other unhealthy habits like smoking.” Her concern is that it might frighten people into “avoiding eggs when they have been given the green light as a healthy food”. But just how good for us are they?
What’s in an egg?
Overall, eggs are low in carbs and fat, but high in protein, with about 6.4g per medium egg ( about 13 per cent of an adult’s daily requirement), 4g of which is in the white. “They are a nutrient-packed bullet shot of goodness,” Bond says. “Vitamins and minerals are densely packed into that little oval shape.”
The yolk is more nutrient-dense and eggs provide a multivitamin-like array of magnesium, iron, selenium and B vitamins. Bond says they “are among the better dietary sources of vitamin D containing an average 1.6 micrograms per egg” and also contain choline, a vitamin-like compound used to make cell membranes and improve digestion, and phosphorus (about 91mg per medium egg) that is important for healthy bones and teeth.
“Eggs are one of the rare food sources that contain lutein, a carotenoid with anti-inflammatory properties that is very important for eye health and is linked to the prevention of age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness. And they contain high levels of cysteine, an amino acid that is important for breaking down acetaldehyde, the toxic compound that is produced when excess alcohol is consumed and is responsible for many hangover symptoms. Eating eggs is the best thing to do after a heavy night out.”
You can eat as many as you like
It’s more than a decade since the recommendation to limit egg intake to three a week for the health of your heart was quietly dropped. Now you can eat as many as you like, says the NHS, with one or two eggs a day considered perfectly acceptable unless you have been medically advised to limit consumption. Last year a team of University of Sydney nutrition scientists reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that putting people on either a high-egg diet (12 eggs a week) or a low-egg diet (less than two a week) made no difference to their cardiovascular risk markers.
Even people with type 2 diabetes suffered no adverse effects in terms of inflammation and glucose levels from eating a diet high in eggs. And weight loss was similar over a year for both groups. “A lot of people are still confused about the amount of eggs that are healthy,” says Azmina Govindji, a British Dietetic Association dietician, “but eggs do not need to be rationed.”
Eggs can be healthy for your heart
The latest JAMA suggests that eggs raise the risk of heart disease, but decades of research led to the NHS and BHF changing their advice and promoting eggs as a heart-healthy addition to the diet. An egg contains about a teaspoon of fat, but only about a quarter of it is saturated fat — the type linked to heart disease in high amounts — and many studies have indicated that egg consumption can improve rather than damage your heart health.
Last year a study of almost half a million people in the journal Heart found that daily egg consumption was associated with a 26 per cent lower risk of haemorrhagic stroke, a 28 per cent lower risk of stroke death and an 18 per cent lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease overall. People who said they ate an average of five eggs a week also had a 12 per cent lower risk of heart disease than those who said they rarely ate eggs. “What we do know is that eggs do not seem to increase the risks of developing heart disease,” says Govindji. “And there is some evidence linking egg intake with reduced risks.”
They are great as a post-workout snack
Dr Matt Cole, a sport and exercise nutritionist at Birmingham City University, says athletes used to discard egg yolks and just eat the white mainly because they “had concerns about increased consumption of fat in the yolk”. However, now that it is known that egg yolks contain healthy fats and other nutrients that boost muscle recovery, the trend is to consume the whole thing. Dr Michael Burdon, consultant in exercise and musculoskeletal medicine at Pure Sports Medicine, says that eggs are “great for muscle repair and growth” and more effective in aiding recovery than many commercial protein balls and shakes.
At the University of Illinois, researchers showed how the post-workout muscle-building response in people who ate whole eggs after a weight-training session was 40 per cent greater than in those who ate the same amount of protein from just egg whites. According to the 2017 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, there is protein in egg yolks along with as yet unknown compounds that seem to enhance the muscles’ ability to use that protein for growth and recovery. “I often recommend eggs to my clients for recovery after exercise,” says Anita Bean, a sports nutritionist. “They contain high concentrations of all nine essential amino acids, including the amino acid leucine, an important trigger for stimulating muscle building.”
Eggs might help to prevent type 2 diabetes
Eating an egg a day could help you to avoid type 2 diabetes because the many bioactive compounds that they contain have beneficial effects on metabolic health. That was the conclusion reached by scientists at the University of Eastern Finland who published a study in the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research last month. Blood samples of middle-aged men who regularly ate eggs positively correlated with the blood profiles of men who avoided type 2 diabetes.
There may be some gender differences, says Govindji. Another study published in Nutrition Research and Practice found that egg consumption appeared to help to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes in men but not in women. In general, eating eggs is accepted as a good step towards prevention of the condition. “Eggs are a great choice when you need to control your blood sugar levels,” Bond says. “And that is an important factor in preventing type 2 diabetes.”
You can even eat the shell
No, I didn’t know it was a thing either, but apparently we can expect to be adding powdered egg shell to our smoothies before long. The shell is a rich source of minerals and other useful bone-strengthening elements such as strontium and fluorine. A 2013 study in the International Journal of Food Science and Nutrition showed that the shell of a chicken egg contains about 2g of calcium, roughly twice the average daily adult requirement.
The idea is to grind the shell into a powder — you can do it at home, the researchers suggested — and add it to flour for making bread or pasta. It doesn’t taste of much and just makes the texture a little more grainy. “I have heard about people doing this,” says Bond. “There may be some positive benefits for bone health, more human studies need to be undertaken to check the bioavailability of nutrients from this source. It’s a trend to watch for the future — egg shell could be a new addition for smoothies and protein shakes.”
A word about salmonella
In the late 1980s egg sales plummeted 60 per cent almost overnight after a declaration by Edwina Currie, a junior Conservative health minister, that “most of the egg production in this country, sadly, is now affected with salmonella”.
There followed warnings for vulnerable groups to avoid eating eggs if they were raw or runny that resulted in farmers destroying 400 million unwanted eggs. Although the risks were later considered overstated, salmonella bacteria can cause food poisoning and, by the 1990s egg producers began a vaccination programme.
Recently, the Food Standards Agency even withdrew the official advice for vulnerable groups to avoid runny eggs, suggesting that they are safe to eat even raw, provided that they are British Lion standard. The government’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) said that babies can be weaned on eggs from about six months. “The latest guidelines are that salmonella risk is low if you stick to eggs with the British Lion standard stamp which provides information about the farm of origin and best before dates,” Bond says. “Runny eggs are now considered safe to eat for everyone, even pregnant women and elderly people.”
Have you tried the egg diet?
Various versions of the egg diet creep on to my social media feed every so often. Even as an egg lover, I can’t imagine a less appealing way to lose weight. These diets range from an egg and grapefruit combo — two eggs and a grapefruit for breakfast, half a chicken breast and broccoli for lunch and white fish and green salad for dinner — to the more extreme 14-day diet of just boiled eggs and water. Yet you needn’t follow such draconian guidelines since eggs can assist weight loss in more manageable ways. In 2017 researchers from the University of Connecticut compared breakfast of either porridge or two eggs and found the eggs were better at leaving people satiated throughout the day.
“There’s lots of research showing that protein from eggs can limit appetite by reducing levels of ghrelin, a hunger hormone produced by our stomach and pancreas,” Bond says. “It also stimulates our natural metabolism, causing us to burn more calories and give off heat during digestion, making eggs a great food for dieters.”