Eating Eggs And Heart-Health, The Research Changes Again:
Diet recommendations have an unfortunate history of moving all-over the place.
Which is odd, because we’ve been eating to stay alive and healthy, you’d think scientists could get it right.
Nowhere is this more true than for individual food-items, like an Egg.
We used to think they were fine. Then we were told they were heart-disease hand-grenades.
But some researchers in China just came out with an interesting case for them not being so bad after-all…
Food That Gets A Bad Rap:
So for awhile, eggs really got a lot of stick for having so much cholesterol and saturated-fat.
But recently, things like cholesterol in food have become much less of a concern,
As long as the quality of everything else you had in that food was still good.
(this was particularly-true for saturated-fat, because the two tend to coincide, and saturated-fat really is still a bad thing according to guys like Dr. Neal Barnard)
And in that spirit, I think we’re finding that as long as the rest of your diet is good,
Eggs may not actually be as bad as doctors in the 80s and 90s would have you believe.
Read on to find out their results…
First Cholesterol Now Eggs:
Back just a few decades ago, both Cholesterol and Eggs were getting blamed for every disease you could think-of,
Heart-Attack, Stroke, Artery-Disease, Mini-Malls, you name it.
Not to mention the fact that many of those studies were inconsistent when viewed-together
But in a newer study on about 500,000 people from 10 different regions of China, recruited over 4 years and followed up for 9,
Found the bad health-outcomes might not be so bad; depending on what the rest of your diet is.
In-fact, things are looking pretty good.
Eggs Associated With Better Outcomes, Not Worse:
So what they found is that people in China who ate on-average one egg a day,
Had 26% less chance of having 1 type of a Stroke,
A 28% lower chance of dying from that type of stroke,
And an 18% lower chance of dying from all types of cardiovascular disease combined.
Another reduction was a 12% lower chance of having a heart-attack from having a blocked-vessel there.
Stroke wins-out again, as the second type that people can have was also reduced in frequency by about 10%.
What We Share, What Is Different:
The study also sounds like a great average of China, because it looked at 10 different locations.
But remember, the average Chinese diet is not a lot like ours.
It’s generally full of vegetables, has a pretty high-dose of fast carbs in the large amounts of rice consumed,
And the average number of Calories eaten each day is probably nowhere near the western-world.
Also unlikely to be a part of their diet is lots of Saturated Fat or Animal Fat.
Their rates of different-diseases bear that out a little.
Heart-Disease And Smoking:
But in-spite of that and oddly like us,
Heart Disease of all types is still the leading cause of serious health-problems.
One other problem that would impact them more, given their much better diet & calorie-intake is Smoking.
Remember that though the average is about 25% of the population in China vs. 16% in the US,
53% of all adult men in China smoke.
So for eggs to cause a reduction in any of the cardio-problems smoking can be involved in, is a pretty amazing change!
Different Diets, Different Heart-Health Outcomes From Eggs?:
Since Americans may get more protein in their diet, it’s possible the results may not be the same.
If a non-American, non-Western diet is pretty low in that and all the great vitamins that can come from eggs,
Then they just might be the Miracle-Food they’d been called right up until the 1980s.
But if you’re an American eating your egg with a ton of fast-carbs, like you’d get in a big stack of pancakes at Denny’s,
The effect might be more muted.
But eggs even have a magic-trick up their sleeve for that, too.
Because when people eat a big stack of pancakes, what they’re really searching-for is Fullness.
But What If You Ate Them First?:
Well, guess what all that Saturated Fat, Protein, Vitamins, & Cholesterol in eggs are just great at doing?
-Making you feel full!
So there is probably a Great reason why they serve eggs at breakfast, other than being awesome,
But also a good reason you should eat them, And probably First out of anything you have!
It might take a little too long for the fullness to set-in, but if it can lower your intake of fast-carbs, it’s definitely worth a shot!
All The Great Stuff That’s In Eggs:
Now aside from this one study, why would you want to?
Well here’s a list of all the great stuff in one large egg:
1) 78 Calories
2) 6.3g Protein
3) 0.6g Carbs
4) 5g Fat
4a) 1.6g Saturated
4b) 2g Monounsaturated
4c) 0.7g Polyunsaturated
5) 187mg Cholesterol
6) 147mg Choline
7) 62mg Sodium
8) 63mg Potassium
9) 5% Vitamin A
10) 15% B-2
11) 5% B-6
12) 10% B-12
13) 35% Biotin
14) 2% Calcium
15) 11% Vitamin D
16) 5% Folate
17) 6% Iron
18) 20% Iodine
19) 20% Molybdenum
20) 9% Phosphorous
21) 22% Selenium
22) 10% Zinc
22) 176 mcg Lutein/Zeaxanthin
(% numbers are vs. the USRDA)
More Benefits From The Good Stuff & Weird Stuff:
Eggs are nature’s perfect food, but aside from the standard Carbs/Fat/Protein etc. you look for,
They also have some weird stuff.
Like Lutein/Zeaxanthin, Selenium, and Choline.
Although you will get WAY more from fruits & vegetables (like 3x-100x), it’s nice to know there is some Lutein in eggs,
Which helps your eyesight as you age, and helps prevent macular-degeneration
The other trick with the Lutein in eggs, is that you’re getting it with Fat.
In the same way that you have to take some vitamins with other substances called “carrier molecules” to get them into your system in the most efficient way,
Fat can do the same for other vitamins, and it gets the Lutein into you better that way.
Selenium is a strong antioxidant that helps your brain, your immune system, and may be associated with prevention of inflammation and some cancers.
And as far as Cholesterol goes, eggs actually seem to have the opposite-effect they were accused-of for awhile.
They actually raise the Good Cholesterol levels in your blood, and lower a bad blood-fat called, Triglycerides.
On and odder-note, eating eggs for children is also associated with those who grow taller, too.
Be Careful Of Too Much Choline And Lecithin:
Now the upper recommended-limit to the number of eggs you can eat a day is set by heart-doctors at about 3.
This may exist because previous studies found that when a compound in eggs that is also related to brain-benefits,
Turns into something that blocks-up your blood-vessels when it’s digested and processed by your gut microbes.
Several others have shown an increased-sensitivity to PC turning into TMAO for Diabetics; so be careful there, too.
So until researchers cure all cardio-vascular disease with a magic pill, moderation is probably still a good idea.
So don’t go the egg-version of plum-crazy, ok!?
Pretty-Good Results, But Diet Studies Aren’t Perfect:
Just remember, this work in China was an observational-study on diet and not a very controlled-one.
It is nearly impossible to do controlled-studies on nutrition, with I think a grand-total of 2 succeeding at it.
So take this evidence as a good-suggestion, but maybe not as-seriously as Law, or Gospel.
But the numbers-alone are highly-suggestive. 500,000 people for 9 years is a lot of data!
And though the further-proof of using data from 10 different locations is great,
It’s possible only a small-percentage of subjects ate anything like fast-food or processed-food at the rate westerners do.
As long as you’re doing everything else you can to eat healthy,
Then there’s probably not too much wrong with eating an egg every day, and it might just improve your heart-health and a bunch of other things while you’re at it!
Photo Credits: “egg 3”, by Marcelo Moura
• Source Study: BMJ-Heart
• More Coverage: NEJM – Intestinal Microbial Metabolism of Phosphatidylcholine and Cardiovascular Risk