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Don’t throw out the Egg’s

Published September 29th, 2012 in Eat for Health

by Tammera J. Karr, PhD

On Aug 14 2012, a study was released that stated “Eggs Are Nearly as Bad for Your Arteries as Cigarettes”, this study was quickly disseminated over the vast media waves as “the gospel according to medicine and science”. I’m about to illustrate to you hopefully this study is full of — hummm, bird doo doo.

The study starts with the following statement;

“PROBLEM: Last year, the average American consumed 247 eggs — over 40 percent more than the world per-capita average. Because egg yolks are high in cholesterol, eating whole eggs increases cholesterol, a known risk factor for coronary artery disease (CAD) and heart attacks. Previous research also links CAD with cigarette smoke.”

Does it?? Researchers willing to publish the unpopular like MIT researcher and senior scientist Stephanie Seneff, have a different opinion. “I think it’s dangerous to look at just one food and deduce that the trend you see is caused by that food”

The study goes on to say;

METHODOLOGY: Canadian researchers examined 1,231 patients at London’s Health Sciences Centre’s University Hospital. The average age of all the patients was 62. Ultrasound measurements of the carotid arteries established the presence and quantity of atherosclerotic plaque, and the scans were accompanied by lifestyle surveys. Smoking was measured in pack-years (number of packs per day multiplied by the number of years spent smoking). Egg yolk consumption was measured in egg yolk-years.

RESULTS: Aging was associated with a linear increase in arterial plaque after age 40, but smoking and egg consumption were each independently associated with an exponential increase in plaque. Egg consumption had two-thirds of the effect of smoking.

CONCLUSION: Egg yolks are almost as bad for your carotid arteries as smoking.

Sounds impressive and compelling doesn’t it….??? The study was based on recall questionnaires, which are notoriously unreliable. More importantly, the authors singled out one food from the patients’ diets and determined this caused the trend towards atherosclerosis. They could have picked another food at random — say the toast or tomatoes eaten with the eggs — and drawn an associative relationship between toast or tomatoes and atherosclerosis.

Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, wrote “[The study] did not measure or control other aspects of diet such as intakes of meats, fruits, or vegetables and did not control for lifestyle factors such as physical inactivity. The data could be useful for generating some hypotheses, but it is difficult to draw any causal conclusions.”

“It’s very worrisome that these authors of the egg-yolk-is-bad article have managed to come up with a fairly simple and relatively compelling story which will scare a lot of people away from eating egg yolks. The study has potentially serious consequences for people trying to improve their health and reduce their risk of stroke and heart disease — and that’s because most people should be eating more eggs, and particularly the yolks, not fewer.”

Seneff and her team at MIT are working on some compelling new research about the role of dietary fat and cholesterol and our health. Her research is so counter to the current dietary dogma that it sounds shocking at first: Seneff believes that Americans are actually suffering from a cholesterol deficiency rather than excess. She’s concerned that studies like these only serve to confuse the public more about the role of dietary cholesterol. Seneff believes that cholesterol has been wrongly vilified and in fact, foods that contain high amounts of cholesterol — like egg yolks and other animal proteins — are key to improving heart health, maintaining a healthy weight, and staving off many diet-related diseases.

“Much of the cholesterol in the blood is produced endogenously,” Dr. Frank Hu, in an interview about this topic wrote, “However, dietary factors (fats and cholesterol) can influence serum cholesterol levels.” An article about eggs on the Harvard School of Public Health’s website reads, “While it’s true that egg yolks have a lot of cholesterol — and so may weakly affect blood cholesterol levels — eggs also contain nutrients that may help lower the risk for heart disease, including protein, vitamins B12 and D, riboflavin, and folate.”

It’s worth pointing out that many of the nutrients found in eggs are found in the yolk. Egg yolk contains lecithin, which helps the body digest fat and metabolize cholesterol; betaine and choline which lower homocysteine levels; glutathione, which helps fight cancer and prevents oxidation of LDL; lutein and zeaxanthin, which have been shown to prevent colon cancer; and biotin, a B vitamin crucial for healthy hair, skin, and nerves.

The picture becomes even more complicated because elevated cholesterol levels do not necessarily mean one is at greater risk for a heart attack. More than 60 percent of all heart attacks occur in people with normal cholesterol levels and the majority of people with high cholesterol never suffer heart attacks.

Many studies now show that high LDL (the so-called “bad cholesterol”) and heart disease are not linked. In 2005, the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons reported that as many as half of the people who have heart disease have normal or desirable levels of LDL. Also in 2005, researchers found that older men and women with high LDL live longer.

So for my part I will say again —  eat real foods, do so in moderation, don’t smoke, limit your eating out and consumption of fake fats from fast food vendors, get regular exercise of 30min or more at one time, and find something to laugh about every day even if it is over something you have done. If it is in a bag, box, can or jar it is likely to be more dangerous to your health than sunny side up eggs and good farm bacon once a week.

To your good health and good foods.

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