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The Egg Debate... Again??

Posted in Controversy



The Egg Debate... Again??

The Research Institute in London, ON recently published a study showing that lifelong consumption of egg yolks is correlated to development of carotid artery plaques (the artery-clogging junk that increases risk for heart attack) and that eggs should be avoided by anyone at risk of cardiovascular disease. The study suggests heart disease risk increases with age after 40 years, with pack-years of smoking, and with egg-yolk years (number of egg yolks eaten per week multiplied by the number of years they followed this diet). The analysis found that egg yolk years were a significant predictor of disease (after adjusting for coronary risk factors) when consuming 3 or more egg yolks per week.

One nutritionist criticized the study suggesting participant's lifestyles, other food choices and preparation/cooking methods of eggs (boiled vs fried) were not addressed in the study, making the study conclusions weak. She also noted that study participants were consuming a lot of eggs despite recommendations to cut back because of their disease risk, implying they may not be following other dietary recommendations, either.

Either way, the debate goes on and here we are still wondering about eggs! What we do know is that elevated blood cholesterol (ie. LDL cholesterol) can increase our risk for heart disease. Dietitians of Canada recommends to steer away from saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol as well as to increase consumption of unsaturated fats and dietary fibre to reduce this risk. Cholesterol levels are not just affected by dietary cholesterol alone, but by foods high in saturated and trans fat. If your cholesterol levels are normal, evidence shows eating 1 egg per day (or 7 per week) will not increase your blood cholesterol. People who have high blood cholesterol, diabetes or heart disease are advised to limit their egg consumption to 2 whole eggs per week.

From a dietitian's perspective, variety is important in one's diet. For a healthy individual, eating eggs every day for breakfast may limit that variety. I might encourage a client to cut back to 1-2 eggs, 3 days a week to allow room for other nutritious foods that may offer a range of health benefits. Again, this depends on what the rest of that person's diet looks like, how active they are, health history, nutrition-related goals, and even readiness for change. Furthermore, I believe that there are greater food issues to be more concerned about (than just eggs). For example, regular consumption of health-harming foods containing excess sodium (canned foods, deli meat, frozen meals, fast food), saturated fat (deep fried foods, red meat, store-bought pastries), and sugary beverages (soda pop, fruit cocktail, syrup-sweetened lattes, Iced Tea) are showing huge negative affects on our health. Not to mention the fact that more than 60% of Canadians are not even consuming 5 servings of vegetables and fruit daily - the disease-fighting, waist-shrinking super foods.

Bottom line, I'm not convinced that my healthful diet, which contains 3-4 whole eggs per week, will be harmed over time by the cholesterol in the egg yolks. I'm likely to be harmed by the sun before egg yolks. If you are concerned, track your diet to find out just how many egg yolks you consume in a week. If you have high cholesterol, diabetes or heart disease limit to 2 egg yolks per week (without the bacon and butter:)) If your blood cholesterol is normal and you are generally healthy, continue to enjoy eggs weekly but allow for variety in your diet - the body responds well to changes in routine.

Whole eggs, they're a good source of protein, iron, zinc, B12 and other important micronutrients. Get crackin'!

References

1. Spence JD, Jenkins DJA, and Davignon J. Egg yolk consumption and carotid plaque. Atherosclerosis 2012; DOI:10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2012.07.032. Available at: http://atherosclerosis-journal.com

2. Dietitians of Canada (2012). Heart Healthy Eating. Available at: http://www.dietitians.ca/Nutrition-Resources-A-Z/Factsheets/Heart-Health/Heart-Healthy-Eating--Cholesterol.aspx

3. Practice-Based Evidence in Nutrition (2012). Cardiovascular-Dyslipidemia Evidence Summary. Available at: http://www.pennutrition.com/KnowledgePathway.aspx?kpid=2878&trcatid=42&trid=4149


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