Eggs are Bad For You – Don’t Believe the Lies

The egg industry is at it again. They are so similar to the tobacco industry in the way they try to misinform and confused the general public about the risks of eggs. The latest misleading newspaper articles proudly announce that eggs are once again really good for us – this time preventing cardiovascular disease!

BBC: An egg a day to keep the doctor away?1 A study2 of nearly half a million people in China suggests a daily egg may reduce the risk of heart disease and strokes

Reuters: Egg a day tied to lower risk of heart disease3  

CNN: An egg a day might reduce your risk of heart disease, study says4

Science Daily: Daily egg consumption may reduce cardiovascular disease. Having an egg a day could reduce risk of stroke by 26 percent5

After the bold and confusing headline, the CNN article fizzles out with the following concluding remarks: “On the downside, the research team collected only “crude information” about egg consumption from participants, and this prevented them from estimating effects “more precisely,” Yu said. “We should [also] be cautious when interpreting our results in a context of different dietary and lifestyle characteristics from China.” 4

Limitations of the Study

The cited study points out the limitations of the research findings: “The strengths of our study include a prospective cohort design, a large sample size, careful adjustment for established and potential risk factors for CVD, and the provision of more precise estimates for stroke subtypes. However, this study has some limitations. Egg consumption was obtained via a non-validated qualitative food frequency questionnaire and the average amounts were estimated indirectly from the two re-surveys, but the estimated amount was similar to that reported by the Chinese Nutrition and Health Surveillance (2010–2012: 0.49 egg).6 There is potential misclassification of egg consumption due to recall issues, but this misclassification may be non-differential, causing the associations to attenuate toward the null. Lacking participants with consumption of more than one egg per day restricted us to assess the association between higher egg consumption (>1 egg/day) and the risk of CVD; but the usual amount of the highest frequency level in the present study was approximate to the recommended amount of the guidelines (0.76 egg vs 0.8–1.0 egg), indicating that adherence to the dietary guidelines with regard to egg consumption could result in a lower risk of CVD. Another disadvantage is that information on habitual egg consumption was collected once at the the baseline survey and might not necessarily reflect dietary habits over the follow-up. Reverse causality could bias the results as well. Participants may change their habitual egg consumption after developing major chronic diseases or having diseases or subclinical symptoms that predispose them to CVD. However, we excluded participants with prior major diseases. Further exclusions of those developing CVD in the first 2 years of follow-up did not change the results appreciably. Finally, we controlled potential confounders to the best of our ability, yet residual confounding by other unmeasured or unknown factors may still exist.

In the populations covered in rural China during the 2004-2008 period for the above review, it may be that the amount of cholesterol and saturated fat in the study subjects’ diets was so low that the cholesterol and fat from less than one egg a day was insufficient to cause any great harm – but only in view of the possibility that the rest of their diet consisted mainly of plant-based foods. Additionally, those people who did not eat eggs at all may be more urban, educated people who have read about the appalling hygiene/legal issues related to eggs in China7 8 . Perhaps these people are eating more Western-style processed diets, and this is why their heart disease risk has been increased – perhaps little or nothing to do with eggs themselves. I know this is just conjecture, but the newspaper reports do little to explain why it is that one vague observational study can upturn all the decades of research showing that eggs are more harmful than beneficial for human health.

Conflict of Interest

If you scan through published studies which suggest that eggs are good for preventing heart disease, stroke etc, you will find at the bottom of the publication a section called Conflict of Interest. A good example I just came across was an April 2018 review called “Dietary Cholesterol, Serum Lipids, and Heart Disease: Are Eggs Working for or Against You?” where the Conflict of Interest sections states the following: “M.L.F. and C.N.B. have received prior funding from the Egg Nutrition Center. The funding sponsors had no role in the interpretation of data or the writing of the manuscript.” 9  This is not an unusual finding when you come across research extolling the health virtues of egg consumption. Additionally, it may be that no direct funding from the egg industry was involved in the study itself, but the organisations which funded or backed the research may have ties with the egg industry.

The Egg Industry’s Nasty Games

It’s always wise to follow the money – who benefits financially from the balance of truth or falsity of the claims made in the research. Not all research is equal. As Dr Greger points out in the following videos10 11 12  , the egg industry, just like tobacco industry and other such profit-orientated organisation, will go to almost any length to sow sufficient confusion in our minds that we will just give up believing any scientific research data. That’s exactly their aim. And who benefits from this lack of trust of scientific research? I’ll let you answer that one after you watch these short videos (all accompanied by transcripts and study references mentioned):


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What about all the studies showing that eggs are linked to increased heart disease?13 14

And, by the way, none of this addresses the other problems with eggs, related to prostate cancer15 , colon and other cancers16 17 , diabetes18 19  ,  mortality20 .

You may also be interested an excellent article21  regarding these eggxaggerated eggy benefits, written by Conor Kerley, PhD 22 , a content specialist with the Center for Nutrition Studies.

A thought that might put this whole thing into context, when have you heard such confusing stories from newspaper articles about broccoli or cabbage or lentils? Perhaps the most sensible thing in situations of dietary conflict like this one is to simply step back from the debate and see which foods hardly, if ever, attract negative coverage. They are likely to be those foods that have least financial interest to Big Pharma, Big Farming and Big Egg!

Finally. who wants to eat a chicken’s period anyway?!23


References

  1. BBC: An egg a day to keep the doctor away? []
  2. Associations of egg consumption with cardiovascular disease in a cohort study of 0.5 million Chinese adults. Chenxi Qin1, Jun Lv1, Yu Guo2, Zheng Bian2, Jiahui Si1, Ling Yang3, Yiping Chen3, Yonglin Zhou4, Hao Zhang5, Jianjun Liu6, Junshi Chen7, Zhengming Chen3, Canqing Yu1, Liming Li1 []
  3. Reuters: Egg a day tied to lower risk of heart disease []
  4. CNN: An egg a day might reduce your risk of heart disease, study says [] []
  5. Science Daily: Daily egg consumption may reduce cardiovascular disease. Having an egg a day could reduce risk of stroke by 26 percent []
  6. Song PK , Li H , Man QQ , et al . Trends in determinants of hypercholesterolemia among Chinese adults between 2002 and 2012: results from the National Nutrition Survey. Nutrients 2017;9:279.doi:10.3390/nu9030279 []
  7. Thirty Chinese Egg Companies Poison With Metal []
  8. Bad Eggs: Another Fake-Food Scandal Rocks China []
  9. Dietary Cholesterol, Serum Lipids, and Heart Disease: Are Eggs Working for or Against You? []
  10. Eggs & Cholesterol: Patently False & Misleading Claims. Michael Greger M.D. FACLM July 3rd, 2013 Volume 13 []
  11. Who Says Eggs Aren’t Healthy or Safe? Michael Greger M.D. FACLM February 17th, 2014 Volume 17 []
  12. Does Cholesterol Size Matter? Michael Greger M.D. FACLM October 3rd, 2014 Volume 21 []
  13. Choi Y, Chang , Lee JE, et al. Egg consumption and coronary artery calcification in asymptomatic men and women. Atherosclerosis. 2015;241:305-312. []
  14. Spence JD, Jenkins DJ, Davignon J. Dietary cholesterol and egg yolks: not for patients at risk of vascular disease. Can J Cardiol. 2010;26:336-339. []
  15. Prostate Cancer []
  16. Eggs, Choline, & Cancer. Michael Greger M.D. FACLM October 14th, 2013 Volume 15 []
  17. Iscovich JM, L’Abbe KA, Castelleto R, et al. Colon cancer in Argentina. I: risk from intake of dietary items. Int J Cancer. 1992;51:851-857.) []
  18. Eggs & Diabetes. M ichael Greger M.D. FACLM December 9th, 2013 Volume 16 []
  19. Qiu C, Frederick IO, Zhang C, et al. Risk of gestational diabetes mellitus. in relation to maternal egg and cholesterol intake. Am J Epidemiol. 2011;173:649-658. []
  20. Djoussé L, Gaziano JM. Egg consumption in relation to cardiovascular disease and mortality: the Physicians’ Health Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008;87:964-969. []
  21. Eggs – New Heart Health Food? Or Rotten Reporting? June 14, 2018. By Conor Kerley, PhD for the Center for Nutrition Studies []
  22. Conor Kerley, PhD []
  23. PETA2: Are Eggs Chicken Periods? A Nurse Gives the Lowdown []