Egg on toast with avocado. Photo: Unsplash, Ben Kolde

25 Apr Nutrition: Unscrambling the Egg

Over the years, the poor egg has been both celebrated and chastised for its nutritional value. Long considered a symbol of new life, the egg has rolled between being a superfood hero and a heart attack trigger.

Just when we finally felt we could eat eggs again without worrying about how it might be a silent killer, a new study was released that might make some feel they should toss the egg while leaving others in disbelief.

How can this be? We love eggs…

Maybe it’s because many of us grew up hearing the virtues of eggs through the “Incredible Edible Egg” commercials that began in 1976.

Or was it Paul Newman, back in the 1967 movie Cool Hand Luke, who egged us on with his famous line, “I can eat 50 eggs.”

With Easter soon upon us and for those who look forward to their omelet brunch, we’re left wondering if we should or shouldn’t eat eggs.

First, a review of the nutritional qualities of eggs…

Is the Nutritional Value of Eggs All It’s Cracked Up to Be?

Eggs are a natural source of protein and 13 vitamins and minerals, including vitamin D, riboflavin, selenium, choline, and lutein, while containing 70 calories. The high-quality protein contained in eggs is important for healthy bones and muscles. Along with exercise, protein can help slow the effects of sarcopenia — the loss of muscle as you age.

Choline is essential for liver function and the health of the brain. And lutein is helpful in slowing the progression of eye diseases, such as cataracts and macular degeneration.

One egg contains 186 milligrams of cholesterol, which is found in the yolk. Most healthy people can eat an egg a day without risking the development heart disease. Worried about too much cholesterol? Enjoy one egg with additional egg whites.

Other Factors Affecting Cholesterol

In addition to an unhealthy diet, according to the American Heart Association, other factors affecting cholesterol include a lack of physical activity, smoking or exposure to tobacco smoke, and excess weight

The Nutritional Roller Coaster

Over the years, the egg has been both touted for these nutritional virtues and demonized for its potential ill effects, such as raising cholesterol levels.

The image of eggs changed when a large study done in 2004 through 2008 suggested that this nutritional powerhouse was not such a bad egg.

The study of 500,000 adults in China, ages 30 to 79, showed that daily egg consumption helped reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Another study in Australia showed that those who ate up to 12 eggs a week showed no increase in cardiovascular risk factors for people with prediabetes or type II diabetes.

Another small study 10 years ago suggested that eating eggs was a bad as smoking. Other myths tout eggs as being a leading contributor to high blood cholesterol.

The U.S. dietary guidelines currently recommend two to three servings of meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, and nuts as a group. Yes, eggs.

The Cracked Egg

A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association reports high consumption of dietary cholesterol such as in eggs is “significantly associated with higher risk of incident cardiovascular disease.”

This study of over 29,000 participants shows “higher consumption of dietary cholesterol or eggs was significantly associated with higher risk of incident cardiovascular disease.”

According to the study:

Eating just three to four eggs per week was associated with 6 percent higher risk of cardiovascular disease and 8 percent higher risk of any cause of death. And if you eat two eggs per day, you’d be boosting your risk of cardiovascular disease by 27 percent, and your risk of early death by 34 percent.

The Flip Side

According to the Egg Nutrition Center, the science and nutrition education division of the American Egg Board:

The inconsistency of this new study with that of other recent studies demonstrates the importance of additional research to further explore this area, including the need to understand the unique contribution of eggs as part of healthy eating patterns set forth in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

The fact that studies outside the U.S. appear to show favorable relationships with egg intake and cardiovascular risk may speak to the importance of what other foods are consumed with eggs as part of the overall diet pattern, as recent research has demonstrated the importance of separating eggs from other foods to understand their independent impact on health outcomes.

To Egg or Not to Egg?

As with any of the nutritional information released, the best decision is to choose moderation, base your decision on your own health requirements, and, when in doubt, check with your doctor.

For now, the symbol of new life seems to still be a good egg.

Below Post Spring-Summer 2019

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