Are eggs healthy?
There are persistent claims that eggs contribute to high cholesterol and heart disease. A study published in February linked eating as few as three eggs a week to a higher risk of early death.
But Australian experts are urging caution, saying the study was observational, did not assess food intake deeply enough and was limited to people aged 50 to 71.
Dr Alan Barclay, from Dietitians Australia, told Nine he worries such studies scare people off a useful food.
“It started with the very low-fat diet trends of the `80s because of the fat and cholesterol content, up until the `90s, and the fear of eggs has persisted,” he says.
“(Observational) studies are interesting, but should be considered as part of the overall body of evidence.”
Nine claims: “In its totality, most modern, high-quality research actually shows that eating eggs as part of a healthy, balanced diet has little influence on our blood cholesterol.
“Australia’s Heart Foundation examined the scientific literature and concluded that ‘eggs have a neutral relationship with heart health, neither remarkably increasing or decreasing risk in the general population’.”
The Heart Foundation has removed a maximum egg limit for most people, but anyone with type 2 diabetes or high cholesterol are advised to eat no more than seven eggs per week.
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In April 2020, the BBC concluded that researchers hadn’t even “definitively linked consumption of cholesterol to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease”.
Eggs (and prawns) are the only foods high in cholesterol that are low in saturated fat.
“While the cholesterol in eggs is much higher than in meat and other animal products, saturated fat increases blood cholesterol. This has been demonstrated by lots of studies for many years,” says Maria Luz Fernandez, professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Connecticut in the US, whose latest research found no relationship between eating eggs and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
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Elizabeth Johnson, research associate professor of nutritional sciences at Tufts University in Boston, US, told the BBC that eggs contain a compound called choline, which may help protect us against Alzheimer’s disease and assist liver function.
Egg yolks are also a good source of lutein, a pigment linked to better eyesight and lower risk of eye disease.
Eggs affect different people differently, but the “vast majority of recent research” suggests they pose no risk to our health and are much more likely to provide health benefits, said the BBC report. Just don’t have them every day.
Insider.com says that in 2015, Dietary Guidelines for Americans stated there was no proof dietary cholesterol was a direct contributor to an increase in blood cholesterol.
Saturated fats, trans fats and added sugars were suspected to play more of a role in heart disease.
While most fats and cholesterol are found in the yolk, dietitian Kylie Sakaida told insider.com that eating the whole egg was advised.
“The thing about eggs is that if you don’t have the yolk, you’re also missing some of those nutrients,” she said.
“Sometimes it’s helpful for people to just have egg whites if their goal is weight management because you’re going to get fewer calories. At that same time, you’re going to miss those nutrients.”
Florida Today says a 2019 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed there was no difference in blood cholesterol levels among those who ate whole eggs compared to those who ate only egg whites. And there was even an improvement in HDL levels (the ‘good’ cholesterol) among those who ate whole eggs.
Eat This Not That says: “If you eat two eggs two to three times a week, you should be just fine. But if you’re eating three or four eggs each day, that’s when you may start to experience some issues.”
How often do you eat eggs? How confident are you about eating eggs? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?
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