Should you be wary of eating eggs again?

When it comes to the pros and cons of eating eggs, do you feel like you have whiplash? If so, you’re not alone. It seems that on a regular basis, scientific research is published which shows that eggs can either kill you or offer a host of nutrients.

New research just published shows that eating eggs and their cholesterol was linked to an increased risk of dying from all causes, including cardiovascular disease and cancer. But once again, before you drop eggs from your menu like a hot potato, it’s critical to look at the study design.

While at first glance, the numbers do look very impressive. The researchers followed 521,120 American participants, aged 50 to 71 years of age, over a period of time from 1995 and 1996 and until the end of 2011.

Sounds good so far, right?

OK- here’s where the study loses its credibility in my books.

At the start of the study, the subjects to completed a very detailed dietary questionnaire but it was the only time in the entire study that information on what the subjects ate was collected.
Does this make sense to you? Are you eating the same way as you did 15 years ago? How about a decade ago? Do you even remember?

This study focusses on cholesterol component of eggs and points to egg whites as not boosting the risk. Yet research has progressed beyond blaming dietary cholesterol as being the culprit in boosting blood cholesterol.

Saturated and trans fat have long taken over as the guilty parties along with identified sugars and refined grains as also playing a major role in upping the risk for heart disease and stroke.

So did study participants, during the time they were being tracked switch from eating eggs to cold cereals made from refined grains or some sugary and fatty breakfast pastry? Or did they start skipping breakfast altogether?

Who knows.

That’s the point I’m trying to make. Without doing dietary questionnaires and revisiting what the subjects were eating, we have no idea.

But even dietary questionnaires have their limitations.

It’s also important to note that this study is observational, meaning it does not show cause and effect. It only shows an association. As I’ve said before, hot dogs and summer are a great example of associations. In summer, hot dog consumption rises as do the number of murders. Does that mean eating hot dogs can make you a murderer? That’s what observational research can mean. It can provide clues as to links that should be investigated but it doesn’t provide any proof or show cause and effect.

It’s also key to point out that science is moving beyond looking at only one food or another or one particular nutrient and instead are looking at dietary patterns. The Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet which are based on whole foods – lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and healthy fats with smaller amounts of animal foods. They have stellar ratings in terms of health perks and don’t even compare to an eating regime based on ultra-processed options.

But these healthy patterns do include animal foods such as eggs.

So before we allow eggs to be vilified, maybe we should take a look at what they bring to the table.

For one, including protein-packed eggs at a meal early in the day may increase satiety later in the day. Nibbling, due to a lack of satiety, can have many drawbacks including weight gain. When people nibble all night long, they don’t seem to go for cut up veggies and the like.

As well, eggs are packed with assorted nutrients including protein, vitamins A, D, E, the B vitamin folate, minerals, such as iron and choline along with healthy fats.

Besides being a fast food to prepare, they’re also budget-friendly while being extremely versatile in cooking.

So don’t pitch your eggs yet again. Instead look at your whole plate. And while you’re at it, enjoy some eggs.

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Categories: Nutrition News, Whole Foods

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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