Egg-busting study faces further fire

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

Egg-busting study faces further fire

Related tags Nutrition

Nutritionists are rushing to defend eggs after the publication of a study linking them to coronary artery disease by researchers from Western University, Canada.

The US Egg Nutrition Center (ENC) And American Egg Board (AEB) has issued a statement stressing that eggs had been shown to have a wide range of health benefits. They provide 13 essential vitamins and minerals, high-quality protein and antioxidants, all for just 70 calories, they state.

Years of credible research has demonstrated the positive effects of the high-quality protein and nutrients in eggs on satiety, weight management, eye health and in supporting a healthy pregnancy, the organizations said.

They added that a Harvard study with more than 115,000 subjects found no significant difference in cardiovascular disease risk between those consuming less than one egg a week and those consuming one egg a day.

The researchers concluded that consumption of up to one egg a day is unlikely to have substantial overall impact on the risk of heart disease or stroke among healthy men and women.

One egg a day

Another study published in Risk Analysis estimates that eating one egg a day is responsible for less than 1% of the risk of coronary heart disease in healthy adults. Alternatively, lifestyle factors including poor diet, smoking, obesity and physical inactivity contribute to 30-40% of heart disease risk, depending on gender.

Additionally, research has shown that saturated fat may be more likely to raise a person's serum cholesterol than dietary cholesterol, said the ENC and AEB.

"The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recognize eggs as a nutrient-dense food that can be part of a healthful diet,"​ said Mitch Kanter, ENC executive director.

'Important contribution to overall diet quality'

"While eggs provide many nutrients and make an important contribution to overall diet quality, they are often accompanied by foods high in saturated fat and calories.”​ These pairings were not taken into consideration in the Western University research​, which was published in the peer reviewed journal Atherosclerosis, said Kanter.

The ENC and AEB observed that subjects of the Canadian study with higher egg intakes tended to also be heavy smokers.

The study shows a link between egg consumption and carotid plaque area. But no associations to many traditional markers of cardiovascular disease, including total serum cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol or body mass index were reported, said the trade bodies. And, in fact, subjects in the highest quintile of egg-yolk years actually had the lowest levels of blood total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.

‘Not all eggs created equal’ 

Niva Shapira, a leading nutritionist in Israel, reiterated an article she had published last year in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology, claiming “not all eggs are created equal”.

She acknowledged that consumption of eggs could raise cholesterol, especially in those with high levels already. However, she said this effect could be reduced by modifying the feed given to hens producing them.

“It is worth noting that most of these deleterious effects could be addressed by egg composition modifications,”​ stated Shapira in the article. For example, two eggs per day with reduced omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids and increased omega-9 monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants “reversed egg-induced increased LDL oxidation to levels of 2-4 eggs a week”.

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