A new study tells us that eggs will kill you after all. Should you listen to it? Here's some perspective.
Good Grief, Here We Go Again
Despite several solid studies that exonerated eggs from playing any part in heart disease (1,2), a new study is telling us that we'd best curb our intake (3).
Never mind that the revamped U.S. dietary guidelines issued in 2015 said there was "no appreciable relationship between consumption of dietary cholesterol and serum cholesterol," this latest report is telling us to beware of egg consumption.
This is how society becomes inured to cautionary health recommendations. Momma says we can't but dad says we can and then they both change their minds repeatedly and junior grows up neurotic and ends up on a clock tower with a rifle, only in this case, he's armed with a crate of eggs and he's raining them down onto hapless scientists.
Top of the world, Ma!
People have grown to think all nutrition information is horse puckey and they might as well do what they want because if it doesn't cause heart disease, it'll sure enough cause cancer, Alzheimer's, liver damage, urinary tract infections, you name it.
So let me try to do a little clean up on aisle 4, where someone seems to have dropped a carton of eggs.
What This New Bummer-of-a-Study Said
Admittedly, at first glance, the study appears to have some ball-swinging gravitas. Scientists combined the results of 6 different research papers and amassed statistics for almost 30,000 people over a period of 17 years.
They found that for each additional 300 mg. of cholesterol in the diet, people had a significant increase in both cardiovascular disease and risk of death from any cause. They even went so far as to say that each additional half-egg consumed was "significantly associated with a higher risk of CVD (cardiovascular disease)."
And the paper even appeared in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, and not some cheesy magazine that publishes studies by loser scientists on how alcohol consumption increases the chances of unprotected sex or how herring fish communicate by farting.
Game, set, and match, right? Go back to eating your sad little egg whites while the sewers abound with orange streaks of lutein and zeaxanthin from all the discarded yolks.
Well, maybe we don't have to.
There's a big problem with this study. While there appears to be a correlation between egg consumption and heart disease, it doesn't mean that there's causation between eggs and heart disease.
Look, the study relied on "food recall." Participants were asked to remember what they ate for breakfast over a period of weeks. Fitness people can remember what they ate for breakfast because it's usually the same damn thing, over and over again. Plus, it's important to them. But regular people? They usually don't remember if they had pastry, Cap'n Crunch, or yes, eggs.
Besides, the researchers didn't appear to consider cholesterol from non-egg sources. Case in point, if you find an egg on a plate, you usually don't have to look far to find some bacon, buttered toast, or creamed coffee.
Perhaps most egregiously, the researchers, while addressing them, still gave short shrift to other factors that heavily influence cardiac health, like smoking, body weight, BMI, and saturated fat intake.
Lastly, you have to consider that just as many people with low cholesterol die of heart disease as people with high cholesterol. Never mind that the vast majority of people aren't even influenced by dietary cholesterol. They can eat lard and their cholesterol levels remain steady.
So I'm stickin' to my over-easy guns and I'm going to continue to eat eggs. They've got too much protein and too many healthful phospholipids and carotenoids to pass up because of a non-definitive study.
- Nicholas R Fuller, et al. "Effect of a high-egg diet on cardiometabolic risk factors in people with type 2 diabetes: the Diabetes and Egg (DIABEGG) Study -- randomized weight-loss and follow-up phase," The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 07 May, 2018.
- DiMarco DM, Norris GH, Millar CL, Blesso CN, Fernandez ML, "Intake of up to 3 Eggs per Day Is Associated with Changes in HDL Function and Increased Plasma Antioxidants in Healthy, Young Adults," J Nutr. 2017 Mar;147(3):323-329.
- Victor W. Zhong, PhD1; Linda Van Horn, PhD1; Marilyn C. Cornelis, PhD1; et al, "Associations of Dietary Cholesterol or Egg Consumption With Incident Cardiovascular Disease and Mortality," JAMA March 19, 2019.