Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Yolked Over the New Egg Study?

Newly published research from journal Atherosclerosis tries to show that eating egg yolks accelerates atherosclerosis in a manner similar to smoking cigarettes. The researcher, surveying more than 1200 patients, found regular consumption of egg yolks is about two-thirds as bad as smoking when it comes to increased build-up of carotid plaque, a risk factor for stroke and heart attack. It is apparent that this researcher was looking for media coverage sensationalism, because the data certainly is not back up the claims.

We can say confidently that egg consumption is not the cause of increased atherosclerosis in this group. Here's why:
  1. There are important differences in the makeup of each group in the study. The group that ate the most eggs had an average age of 69.77 years compared to only 55.70 years for the group who ate the least eggs. The group who ate the most eggs also smoked the most and had the highest rate of diabetes. Surprisingly, the group that ate the most eggs had the lowest total cholesterol, lowest LDL cholesterol, highest HDL cholesterol, and lowest body mass index.
  2. The data was collected from individuals soon after they had a stroke or transient ischeamic attack (known as a “mini stroke”). This study is not examining healthy individuals or comparing the number of strokes in people who ate lots of eggs vs. those who ate few eggs. All participants in the study already had a stroke regardless of their egg consumption.
  3. Participants were given questionnaires and asked to recall the number of eggs and packs of cigarettes they had smoked during their lifetime. Questions regarding exercise, stress levels, and other aspects of the diet were not asked. The researchers relied on the participants to be both truthful and accurate in their memory of egg consumption and smoking history during their lifetime.
  4. The authors promote the idea that egg yolks are bad because they are high in cholesterol and eating foods high in cholesterol supposedly increases serum cholesterol in the blood. However, as stated earlier, the group that ate the most eggs actually had the lowest total cholesterol, lowest LDL cholesterol, and highest HDL cholesterol. According to their data, it seems that eating lots of eggs actually promotes a healthier cholesterol profile and lower body mass index. Amazingly, the authors do not address this in their paper nor do they hypothesize on what mechanism is causing high egg consumption to increase plaque buildup.
Alternatively, this data could be interpreted completely differently. The data shows the individuals who ate the most eggs were the oldest and had the most plaque after their stroke. Perhaps the eggs actually had a protective effect allowing those who ate the most eggs to withstand more plaque buildup and live the longer before having a stroke. Those individuals who ate the fewest eggs had a stroke an average of 14 years earlier than those who ate the most eggs. Perhaps if they would have been eating more eggs, they would have lived longer without a stroke.

Bonnie and Steve:
Our recommendation has always been to consume organic eggs preferably with added omega 3 (DHA). Eggs are a great lean protein source. Depending on the individual, moderation may be warranted. If you consume copious amounts of eggs, try to halve the amount of yolks you consume. Now, of course, we assume you are eating eggs hard boiled, cooked in a healthy oil (not butter or margarine), or in a healthy recipe/food product. We certainly do not endorse copious amounts of cheese-laden omelets cooked in butter with a side of bacon, hash browns, and pancakes!

No comments: