For years animal agriculture apologists have tried to convince the public that “inflammation, not cholesterol, is the cause of chronic disease.” Eat all the eggs, meat and milk you want, they cajole: you won’t die from a stroke or heart attack at age 50. We promise.
This week a JAMA study reverses the industry-friendly hype, at least until the industry flacks resume their spin. Each added 300 milligrams a day of cholesterol represented a 17 percent increase in risk of cardiovascular disease and 18 percent increased risk of all-cause premature death, concludes the study.
This is far from the first time eggs have been definitively linked to disease and death. 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,” cautioning that, “Stopping the consumption of egg yolks after a stroke or myocardial infarction would be like quitting smoking after a diagnosis of lung cancer: a necessary action, but late.”
Eating eggs is also “positively associated” with the risk of diabetes say the journals Nutrition and Diabetes Care and with the risk of ovarian cancer says Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. “Thus, 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%, among women who eat at least 1 egg a week,” reported Cancer Epidemiology, citing a study of Seventh Day Adventists, who eat no meat, and the Iowa Women’s Health Study which showed threefold and twofold increases in the cancer, respectively.
Egg operations—30,000 caged hens stacked on top of each other over their own manure in a windowless, unventilated barn—also invite germs and therefore rely on antibiotics. A few years ago, the FDA reported it found a hatchery injecting antibiotics directly into eggs of laying hens presumably to take the offensive with germ control. But wouldn’t the eggs the antibiotic-treated hens then lay have antibiotic residues? Yes, reported the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2000; some residues remain.
Antibiotics are so basic to animal-based agriculture, reps from the egg and other industries as well as Big Pharma stormed Capitol Hill in 2009 when the FDA threatened to limit them. And, despite new antibiotic regulations from the FDA in 2013 and more recently, antibiotic use on megafarms is actually going up not down.
There are ethical reasons to reject eggs too. For example, “cage-free,” “humanely raised” labels mean nothing since male chicks are ground up alive at the hatchery long before the females get to the “humane farm.”
“Chick culling is the process of killing newly hatched poultry for which the industry has no use. It occurs in all industrialized egg production whether free range, organic or battery cage—including that of the UK and US,” says Wikipedia. “Many methods of culling…include cervical dislocation, asphyxiation by carbon dioxide and maceration using a high-speed grinder.” Grinding the males up alive while they are fully conscious, called maceration, is the primary method in the United States. Videos of the killing, which produces a “slurry” that becomes dog feed, are widely available on the Internet. The egg industry does not deny the killings.
With their health risks and cruelty, why aren’t eggs tarred like cigarettes? Because of counter-information disseminated by the egg industry. For example, an egg industry-sponsored supplement in Canadian Family Physician actually wrote “consumption of up to seven eggs per week is congruent with a healthy diet,” and questions the cholesterol/cardiovascular disease link that the current JAMA research confirms. Why believe scientific research when you can believe the egg industry?
Martha Rosenberg is a freelance journalist and the author of the highly acclaimed “Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health,” published by Prometheus Books. Check her Facebook page.