Eggs are a health risk you can do without

In 2008, the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation reported that just one egg a day increased the risk of heart failure in a group of doctors studied. And in 2010, the Canadian Journal of Cardiology lamented the “widespread misconception . . . that consumption of dietary cholesterol and egg yolks is harmless.” The article further cautioned that “stopping the consumption of egg yolks after a stroke or myocardial infarction [heart attack] would be like quitting smoking after a diagnosis of lung cancer: a necessary action, but late.”

Damage to the heart isn’t the only health risk from eating eggs. According to studies in the journals Nutrition and Diabetes Care, eating eggs is “positively associated” with the risk of diabetes.

As if that isn’t enough, eggs also have a link to ovarian cancer, says an article in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. The culprit is not necessarily just cholesterol. “It seems possible that eating eggs regularly is causally linked to the occurrence of a proportion of cancers of the ovary, perhaps as many as 40 percent, among women who eat at least 1 egg a week,” wrote the authors. In one study the article cites, three eggs per week increased ovarian-cancer mortality three-fold, compared with less than one egg per week.

One of the reasons people still think of eggs as healthful is because they are promoted by Big Ag and the egg industry to both the medical and consumer press. For example, a 2010 egg industry-sponsored supplement in Canadian Family Physician found that “consumption of up to seven eggs per week is congruent with a healthy diet,” and questioned the cholesterol/cardiovascular disease link. The chicken egg has the highest cholesterol of any other foodstuff—packing approximately 275 mg of cholesterol which is more than one day’s worth. Cynics might observe that the tobacco industry also downplayed the cigarette/lung cancer connection.

A blurb in Akin’s Healthy Edge® magazine says, “In the past, eggs have been condemned as unhealthy because their yolks contain cholesterol. But studies from around the world show that the cholesterol found naturally in food isn’t actually harmful, according to research presented at the Experimental Biology 2011 conference in Washington, DC. Unlike our government, health agencies in Europe and Canada don’t recommend limits for dietary cholesterol.”

In 2010, US egg farmers in conjunction with Scholastic rolled out the “Good Egg Project” in schools to increase egg demand. It was similar to the dairy industry’s “Got Milk” mustache campaigns in schools which pretend milk is a diet food and not fattening. The “Back-to-Breakfast Teacher Challenge” bribed teachers by giving them a chance to win $5,000 by explaining in an essay how the Good Egg Project grant “could be used to offer protein breakfasts in their schools.”

Most people are now aware of the cruel conditions that laying hens live in, too. While there has been some effort to improve their conditions with new laws that will go into effect, hens continue to be debeaked so they do not peck each other and crammed into wire cages with less than 67 square inches allotted to each hen for their entire lives. Hens are packed so closely together, the ammonia fumes from their waste sicken them and humans who enter the barns.

United Egg Producers (UEP), the trade group that represents 85 percent of US egg producers and 180 egg farms, admits in its own guidelines that debeaking causes “acute pain, perhaps constant pain and stress,” and other “welfare disadvantages,” like bleeding and dehydration. Debeaking and crowding to produce a cheap egg are more reasons to say no to eggs.

Martha Rosenberg is a health reporter whose food and drug expose, Born with a Junk Food Deficiency (Prometheus Books, 2012), was named in the American Society of Journalists and Authors 2013 Outstanding Book Awards. A former medical copywriter and medical school lecturer, Rosenberg has appeared on CSPAN, National Public Radio, the Ed Schultz show and RTV. “Born” has been praised by Library Journal, the Public Library of Science and cited by the Sloan-Kettering library. Rosenberg spoke at the Mid-Manhattan Public Library in June.

4 Responses to Eggs are a health risk you can do without

  1. I completely disagree with this! Eggs are healthy and great for you. There isn’t a single piece of evidence out there showing that eggs are bad for your healthy. It also helps to be eating farm fresh eggs and not Walmart eggs. With a proper exercise and lifestyle, foods such as eggs are essential. I eat eggs a lot with excellent cholesterol levels. Very poor advice.

  2. Eggs are not inherently unhealthy. As with everything, moderation, moderation, moderation. I eat eggs that come only from free-range chickens on a small, local farm that are not abused. I don’t eat Big Ag eggs– or Big Ag anything, for that matter.

  3. The Framingham Study, which is perhaps the most comprehensive study ever on eggs with 21,327 subjects over twenty years, found no correlation between egg consumption and an increased risk of heart disease. What is great about this study is that it was a double blind test, and not nearly as prone to error as the study comparing smoking and egg consumption. There was a minor correlation between higher BMI and egg consumption, with participants eating less than 1 egg a week at 24.5 versus those eating 7+ eggs a week at 25.0.

    Overall, neither eggs, dietary cholesterol, or saturated fat are the enemies of health that they are perceived to be. Although we will have an entire post dedicated to saturated fat and several to cholesterol, it should be emphasized that dietary consumption of either is not dangerous. Eggs are a great source of vitamins, fat, and essential protein. Contrary to government recommendations and popular opinion, eating 4 eggs for breakfast (280 calories and 24 grams of protein) is far superior to eating a bowl of cereal with a glass of orange juice (280 calories and 50 grams of sugar).

  4. Pingback: Chicken & Eggs Linked to Inflammation | The Epigenetics Project Blog