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The Never-Ending Egg Dispute Continues

The egg dispute goes on and on in the pages of medical journals. How risky is it to eat an egg or two for breakfast?
The Never-Ending Egg Dispute Continues
Egg eggs yolk cholesterol lecithin breakfast salmonella raw

Is it any wonder that Americans are confused about eggs? A meta-analysis published last month in the American Journal of Medicine concluded that eggs are not linked to cardiovascular disease. In fact, the authors report that people who eat more than one egg a day are LESS likely to have coronary artery disease than those who eat fewer. This week the egg dispute continues with the opposite results.

Eggs and Death:

Now, a study published in PLOS Medicine (Feb. 9, 2021) turns this conclusion on its head.  The researchers analyzed data from more than half a million American volunteers between 50 and 71 years of age. They were followed from 1995 to 2011.

During this time, 129,000 people died. People who ate eggs were MORE likely to die from cancer, cardiovascular disease or for any other reason. The egg dispute heats up again.

The Data:

We’re not exactly sure how the authors came up with this result, but they report that for each half an egg (with the yolk) consumed per day, there was an increase in the risk of death by 7%. That half an egg was associated with a 7% increase in cancer death, cardiovascular death and what researchers call all-cause mortality. In other words, death from any cause. The authors report that the more eggs people ate, the greater the risk. They blamed the increase in deaths to cholesterol.

The researchers go on to report that:

“Egg white/substitute consumers had lower all-cause mortality and mortality from stroke, cancer, respiratory disease, and Alzheimer disease compared with non-consumers. Hypothetically, replacing half a whole egg with equivalent amounts of egg whites/substitutes, poultry, fish, dairy products, or nuts/legumes was related to lower all-cause, CVD, cancer, and respiratory disease mortality.”

The Egg Dispute Confuses Everyone:

By now we suspect you are not only confused but annoyed. We would not blame you one bit.

Ten days ago we cited an article published in the American Journal of Medicine (Jan. 2021) that said:

“Eggs are a nutrient-dense (eg, minerals, folate, B vitamins, and fat-soluble vitamins), rich source of bioactive compounds (eg, lutein and zeaxanthin) and high-quality protein. Nutrients and bioactive compounds in eggs may theoretically contribute to improving cardiovascular disease.”

This was a meta-analysis of 23 prospective studies involving over one million volunteers. The researchers reported NO increased risk heart attacks or strokes associated with egg consumption. You can read more details of this and other egg studies at this link.

The Egg Dispute from A Different Perspective:

Although statistically significant, the latest domino in the egg dispute demonstrated a modest increase in cardiovascular risk. Some eminent scientists are not convinced, though.

Dr. Walter Willett is one of our heroes. We have interviewed him many times on our radio show. He is professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the T.H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University. (He was once chairman of the department.) He points out that people provided information about their diet only once, at the beginning of the study. Assuming that egg consumption remained static throughout the study, over more than a decade, may have been misleading.

Dr. Willett told CNN (Feb. 9, 2021):

“They’re only getting a snapshot in time.”

People change their eating habits all the time. The subjects in this new study were recruited between 1995 and 1996. They were followed through 2011. But the scientists were not monitoring egg consumption over that time. They authors relied on a single food questionnaire.

Dr. Ada Garcia is a nutrition expert at the School of Medicine of the University of Glasgow, Scotland.

She told CNN:

“The conclusions of this study are overblown. Blaming eggs alone for an increased risk of cardiovascular disease is a simplistic and reductionist approach to the concept of diet and disease prevention.”

Final Words on the Egg Dispute:

We are not at all surprised that people get fed up with scientists who make bold proclamations about diets on month, only to have them contradicted the next. That has been happening with eggs for decades.

Where do you stand on the egg dispute? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
  • Zhuang P et al, "Egg and cholesterol consumption and mortality from cardiovascular and different causes in the United States: A population-based cohort study." PLOS Medicine, Feb. 9, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1003508
  • Krittanawong C et al, "Association between egg consumption and risk of cardiovascular outcomes: A systematic review and meta-analysis." American Journal of Medicine, Jan. 2021. DOI: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2020.05.046
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