This is an image of eggs!

Are eggs good or bad for you? (Part 1 of 2)

“Study Claims Eggs are as Unhealthy as Smoking”

“Is Eating Eggs as Bad as Smoking?”

These are two headlines that appeared after a study done by researchers at the University of Western in Ontario, Canada was published on the website on August 10th of 2012.

Pretty shocking stuff.

If you take what they say at face value you may never eat another egg again.

But the good news for egg lovers is that study was quickly debunked.

The study was seriously flawed according to cardiologists.

“It is extremely important to understand the differences between ‘association’ and ‘causation.’ This is very poor quality research that should not influence patient’s dietary choices,” says Dr. Steven Nissen, who chairs the department of Cardiovascular Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. Nissen even called into question how study researchers measured a participant’s plaque level.

Cardiologist Gordon Tomaselli, MD from the American Heart Association agrees. He says the research showed an association between egg consumption and plaque build up rather than a “cause and effect” relationship. In addition, Tomaselli says the study didn’t take into consideration what else participants ate and whether they exercised.

All well and good, but here’s the thing…

Every time you see a headline like the ones above the whole “where there’s smoke there’s fire” thing comes into play. You can’t help think to yourself “Ok maybe they’re not as bad as the study claims, but there must be something to it.”

That’s the question I’ll look at today (and in next month’s article) as well as other things about eggs that will help you decide if eating eggs is right for you and your family.

Starting with…

What exactly is an egg anyway?

Eggs are laid by the females of various types of animals including birds, reptiles, amphibians, mammals and fish. For this article, I’ll deal only with the most popular egg produced for mass consumption: the chicken egg. A chicken egg is made up of the protective shell, the albumen (egg white) and the vitellus (egg yolk).

The eggs sold in grocery story are technically not “dead baby chicks” (for lack of a better phrase.)  The eggs we eat are unfertilized eggs. For an egg to be fertilized, the hen and rooster must mate prior to formation of the egg. Hens still lay eggs when they’ve had no contact with a rooster that result in what we find in grocery stores.

What is the difference between a brown egg and a white egg?

The difference is related to the source of the egg. Although there are exceptions amongst breeds, for the most part, white-feathered chickens with white ear lobes lay white eggs; red-feathered chickens with red-ear lobes lay brown eggs. Note: There are also chickens that lay specked eggs and blue eggs.

There is no difference in taste and nutrition level of a brown egg versus a white egg. Brown eggs sometimes cost a little more because the hens that lay them tend to eat more than their white-egg laying counterparts driving up the cost of each egg.

What does a typical egg consist of?

A large egg (50 g) contains 78 calories; 1.6 g of saturated fat, .7 g of polyunsaturated fat, 2 monounsaturated fat; 186.5 mg of cholesterol; 62 mg of sodium; 63 mg of potassium; .6 g of sugar and 6 g of protein.

The protein in eggs contains all essential amino acids. They are also rich in iron, phosphorous, selenium and vitamins A, B12, B2 and B5 (among others.)

One egg also contains 113 mg of Choline. Choline is very beneficial to brain development and memory among other things.

Eggs also contain disease-fighting nutrients like lutein and zeaxanthin which may reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in older adults.

Should I avoid eating eggs because they contain cholesterol?

This is people’s biggest fear and the reason why, for the longest time, it was thought that eating eggs was bad for your heart and arteries.

Here’s why it is not an issue. Your body (specifically your liver) produces cholesterol daily.

Why would it do that? Well cholesterol is one of the most important nutrients in our bodies. It’s a requirement for growth in both babies and adults. Plus it’s necessary for the production of most hormones.

When you eat cholesterol your liver produces less of it. What’s more when you eat cholesterol it improves your cholesterol profile. The cholesterol in eggs raises your good cholesterol (HDL) and changes your bad cholesterol (LDL) to a large subtype which has no association with an increased risk of heart disease.

Are eggs good for weight loss?

The Satiety Index, which rates 38 foods on how well they satisfy people’s hunger, rates eggs high on their scale. The Satiety Index compares food items to white bread which is ranked as 100%. Eggs are ranked at 150%. (To give this number perspective here are a few other rankings: Cake is ranked at 65%; Bananas ranked at 118%; French fries are ranked at 116%; oranges are ranked at 202%.)

For a 2008 study published in the International Journal of Obesity, one group of overweight people were given two eggs to eat for breakfast; another group of overweight people were given bagels of the same calorie total. After eight weeks, the egg eating group was found to have a 61% greater reduction in Body Mass Index; 65% more weight loss; 34% greater reduction in waist circumference; and a 16% reduction in body fat.

A University of Connecticut study also using the egg and bagel breakfast comparison found that people who ate eggs felt less hungry and more satisfied for up to three hours after their meal. Plus they consumed fewer calories later in the day.

In a 2011 study published in the International Journal of Food Science Nutrition, researchers found that the egg lunch was significantly more satisfying than a potato lunch. The study concluded that eggs for lunch could increase satiety more than a carbohydrate meal and might even help reduce between-meal calorie intake.

What about people with diabetes?

If you have diabetes or a familial hypercholesterolemia (which affects 2% of the population) you should consult your doctor about whether eating eggs is right for you.

That’s it for today. Next time, I’ll take a look at some other benefits to consuming eggs, the egg white versus the egg yolk, some egg eating tips and how many eggs it’s safe to consume per day among other things.

Written by Carolyn Fetters, founder of the TakeDown Challenge