Middle aged and older men who ate approximately four eggs per week had a 38% lower risk of type 2 diabetes (T2D) than those who only ate approximately one egg per week, said the study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The association persisted even after factors such as physical exercise, body mass index, smoking and the consumption of fruits and vegetables were taken into consideration.
The research, which examined the eating habits of 2,332 men, aged between 42 and 60, also found a connection between egg consumption and lowered blood sugar levels.
The study added that eggs contain many beneficial nutrients such as high-quality protein, fatty acids, minerals, and vitamins that could have had an effect on, for example, glucose metabolism and low-grade inflammation, and thus lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.
“In addition to cholesterol, eggs and especially egg yolks are also a rich source of many nutrients that could have a beneficial impact on health... [such as] anti-inflammatory properties,” said Doctor Jyrki Virtanen at University of Eastern Finland who led the study.
Eating more than four eggs a week was not shown to bring any extra benefits and those who already have type 2 diabetes should not increase their egg intake, added the team.
“The prevalence of T2D is increasing around the world. Eggs are a major source of cholesterol, which has been associated with elevated blood glucose and an increased risk of T2D.
“However, there are limited and conflicting data from prospective population studies on the association between egg consumption and risk of T2D,” said the team.
One explanation for its findings contradicting previous studies that found a positive association between higher egg intake and risk of T2D or cardiovascular diseases was that eggs are seldom eaten in isolation. They are usually eaten as part of a mixed dish, said Virtanen. “For example, in many countries, they are eaten with processed meat… and processed meats have been linked with a higher risk of diabetes.”
Also, in many studies, those who ate more eggs were also more likely to smoke and have lower leisure-time physical activity. “This was not observed in our study cohort,” it added.
The dietary habits of the men were assessed at the baseline in 1984-1989. During a follow-up of 19.3 years, 432 men were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
Source: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
‘Egg consumption and risk of incident type 2 diabetes in men: theKuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study’
Authors: Jyrki K Virtanen, et al