Eggs: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

June 18, 2019

 

 

Most of us grew up hearing that eggs are the worst food possible, because they are loaded with "killer" cholesterol that will cause premature death from a heart attack or stroke.

But lately more data has come out, which shows that eggs are our saviors and can provide us with one of the most balanced and nutritious food, which can prevent diabetes and help keep our weight down.  Lets see what the latest research actually shows:

 

Egg composition

They come in different sizes, most are from chicken, but now you can find duck eggs, turkey eggs, quail eggs, goose eggs, pheasant eggs, and even ostrich eggs.

 

A typical large chicken egg contains:

6 grams of high-quality protein

252 micro grams of lutein and zeaxanthin

147 mg of choline

186 mg of dietary cholesterol

Vitamin D

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B2

Vitamin A

Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)

Selenium [1]

 

Health benefitsEggs offer plenty of health benefits, which span several organ systems.

 

The carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, which give the yellow-orange color to the yolk, have been shown to reduce the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in those 65 and older.  Research has shown that, due to the fat content of egg yolks, the egg’s lutein and zeaxanthin may be more easily absorbed by the body than the lutein and zeaxanthin from plant sources. [2]

 

Choline is important in the development and maintenance of cognitive function.  It is necessary for cell membrane integrity and needed in larger quantities during pregnancy for infant memory development and function.  Choline is also important as we age and seems to help protect against Alzheimer’s and fatty liver disease. [3]

 

Eggs are high in cholesterol, but eating eggs does not adversely affect cholesterol in the blood for the majority of people.  AHA (American Heart Association) used to recommend a cholesterol limit of 300 mg per day, but not anymore, as there is not enough evidence that doing so makes a difference, unless you have a genetic predisposition to be a hyper absorber, like people with ApoE 3/4, 4/4 mutations. [4]

 

Eating eggs leads to an increase of "good" HDL cholesterol.  In one study, eating two eggs per day for six weeks increased HDL levels by 10% [5]

 

And the latest study found that daily egg consumption was associated with a lower risk of the heart disease, related death and hemorrhagic stroke (bleeding in the brain).  In addition, daily egg consumption was associated with a lower risk for ischemic heart disease (angina and heart attacks) and a lower risk for major cardiac events compared with not eating eggs. [6]

 

Eggs also contain all the essential amino acids in the right ratios, and can help with weight loss, increase muscle mass, lower blood pressure and optimize bone health. [7]

 

They are great to be consumed before or after exercise and provide needed protein to replenish energy and decrease muscle soreness, without making you feel stuffed. 

 

Replacing breakfast cereal with eggs can improve blood sugar control by preventing post-prandial glucose spikes. [8] Eating one egg a day can also prevent diabetes. [9]

 

 

What about the latest "bad" news for eggs lovers? 

 

Eggs are a major source of dietary cholesterol and that cholesterol in the diet increases the risk of heart disease and premature death.  This study did not find a cause-and-effect relationship; it only found an association.  Other factors may affect that association.  They include the way that eggs are cooked or changes to people's diet that occurred after the study information was gathered. [10]

 

Eggs are pretty much nature's perfect food

 

Consuming eggs in moderation can be and should be a part of any balanced and healthy diet.  For example, a chopped hard-boiled or poached egg with your salad or other nutrient-rich food like avocado or grapefruit, is probably fine.

 

But you might want to rethink a daily habit of fried eggs, especially if they come with a side of french fries, bacon or sausage.

 

Even AHA says that one whole egg per day (or seven eggs per week) can be part of a healthy eating pattern. [11]

 

On top of everything else, they are also cheap, easy to prepare, go with almost any food and taste awesome.

 

What about the different colors of chicken eggs?

 

If you think brown eggs are better, healthier, more nutritious than white, think again. 

White-feathered chickens with white earlobes lay white eggs; red or brown ones with red earlobes lay brown eggs; and the Ameraucana breed, also known as the Eastern egg chicken, lays eggs with blue shells. No other differences, except of price of course! There is no nutritional difference between brown and white eggs.

 

However, a hen's diet and environment can affect an egg's nutrition. 

 

What about other "labels":

  • Enriched with omega-3: come from hens fed a diet enriched with healthy omega-3 fats, which are traditionally very limited in the modern human diet. They may offer some health benefits: lowering blood triglycerides and blood pressure, and consuming two omega-3 enriched eggs every day for six weeks increased the omega-3 fat content of breast milk for breastfeeding mothers. [12]

  • Vegetarian eggs: come from chickens that consume a vegetarian feed

  • Organic eggs: come from chickens that consume organic feed

  • Free-range eggs: come from free-range chickens that are free to roam and eat insects in addition to feed, also exposed to natural sunlight and have more vitamin D [13]

  • Pasteurized eggs: offer the option of eating eggs raw without being infected with salmonella

Bottom line: enjoy 1-2 eggs a day for breakfast, part of a meal, or as a snack.

 

For more information on a healthy lifestyle and improving your well-being, please schedule an appointment with Dr. Koganski at 215-750-7000 or https://www.NewtownInternalMedicine.com

 

References:

[1] https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/dairy-and-egg-products/117/2

[2] https://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/caring-for-your-vision/diet-and-nutrition/lutein

[3] Steven H Zeisel, Kerry-Ann da Costa, Choline: an essential nutrient for public health, Nutrition Reviews, Volume 67, Issue 11, 1 November 2009, Pages 615–623, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00246.x

[4] Fernandez ML . Rethinking dietary cholesterol. Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2012 Mar;15(2):117-21. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e32834d2259.5. Mutungi G   J Nutr. 2008 Feb;138(2):272-6

[5] Mutungi G, et al.  Dietary cholesterol from eggs increases plasma HDL cholesterol in overweight men consuming a carbohydrate-restricted diet. J Nutr. 2008 Feb;138(2):272-6

[6] Qin C, Lv J, Guo Y on behalf of the China Kadoorie Biobank Collaborative Group, et al. Associations of egg consumption with cardiovascular disease in a cohort study of 0.5 million Chinese adults Heart 2018;104:1756-1763

[7] Kerstetter JE et al. Dietary protein and skeletal health: a review of recent human research..Curr Opin Lipidol. 2011 Feb;22(1):16-20. doi: 10.1097/MOL.0b013e3283419441

[8] Courtney R Chang et al, Restricting carbohydrates at breakfast is sufficient to reduce 24-hour exposure to postprandial hyperglycemia and improve glycemic variability, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2019). DOI: 10.1093/ajcn/nqy261

[9] Stefania Noerman et al. Metabolic Profiling of High Egg Consumption and the Associated Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in Middle‐Aged Finnish Men. Mol. Nutr. Food Res. 2019, 63, 1800605. https://doi.org/10.1002/mnfr.201800605

[10] Zhong VW, Van Horn L, Cornelis MC, et al. Associations of Dietary Cholesterol or Egg Consumption With Incident Cardiovascular Disease and Mortality. JAMA. 2019;321(11):1081–1095. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.1572

[11] https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/suggested-servings-from-each-food-group. cited 5/5/2019

[12] Cherian G et al. Changes in the breast milk fatty acids and plasma lipids of nursing mothers following consumption of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid enriched eggs. Nutrition. 1996 Jan;12(1):8-12

[13] Kühn J et al. Free-range farming: a natural alternative to produce vitamin D-enriched eggs. Nutrition. 2014 Apr;30(4):481-4. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2013.10.002. Epub 2013 Oct 14

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