Eggs are good for you – who knew!? Dr Malcolm Kendrick

I was sent this article a few days ago: ‘Associations of egg consumption with cardiovascular disease in a cohort study of 0.5 million Chinese adults.’ Now, there would be a time when such an article would excite me and fill me with an urge to tell everyone ‘Eggs are good for you.’ Nowadays I tend to sigh and think: “another study for everyone to ignore”. Move along, nothing to see here.

Then I thought again. No, here we have yet more evidence, from a truly enormous observational study, that eating a substance with a very high cholesterol content does not increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Instead, it protects against cardiovascular disease – not by a massive amount, but not that shabby

So, I decided I should make the effort to spread the message far and wide and throw down a challenge to the ‘What The Health’ brigade.

Here was the main conclusion of the study:

‘Among Chinese adults, a moderate level of egg consumption (up to <1 egg/day) was significantly associated with lower risk of CVD, largely independent of other risk factors.’

Yes, I know, how can you eat <1 egg/day (less than one egg per day)? That is a dietary intake that includes zero. Such is the joy of scientific literature. What they meant was, eating almost one egg a day – I think it was 0.88 of an egg – on average.

Expanding it a bit: compared with non-consumers, those who ate (almost one) egg daily had a lower risk of CVD. An 11% reduction (relative risk).

Splitting that down further:

  • Death from Ischaemic heart disease was reduced by 12% (0.88 [0.84-0.93])
  • Death from haemorrhagic stroke reduced by 26% (0.74 [0.67-0.82])
  • Death from ischaemic stroke reduced by 10%. (0.90 [0.85-0.95]).

There was also a significant dose-response relationships of egg consumption with morbidity (non-fatal illness) of all CVD endpoints (P for linear trend <0.05). Which means that the more eggs you ate, the greater the benefit. Daily consumers also had an 18% lower risk of CVD death and a 28% lower risk of haemorrhagic stroke death compared to those who ate no eggs at all.1

Of course, the demonization of eggs has become somewhat of a thing of the past by many of those who used to be very firmly ‘anti-egg’. Here is what the British Heart Foundation has to say on the matter:

‘Now current research shows that for most healthy people, cholesterol in food, such as eggs, has a much smaller effect on blood levels of total cholesterol and harmful LDL cholesterol, especially when compared with the much greater and more harmful effects of saturated fatty acids found in foods such as butter and fatty meat. Eggs are, in fact, low in saturated fat. Recent research has also shown that moderate egg consumption – up to one a day – does not increase heart disease risk in healthy individuals and can be part of a healthy diet.

As such, since about 2000, major world and UK health organizations, including us and the Department of Health, changed their advice on eggs and there is now no recommended limit on how many eggs people should eat, as long as you eat a varied diet.’ 2

Given that the BHF are no longer that concerned about egg consumption, based on several other studies, what does this Chinese research add? Well, it demonstrates that eggs are not simply neutral, they are positively beneficial for health.

The reason for highlighting this fact is, in part, to counter some of the ridiculous claims made by the massively influential documentary ‘What The Health.’ For those of you who have not heard of it, you can search it on the Internet.

It was created by a vegan network, and – amongst other ridiculous statements – made the claim that eating a daily egg was the equivalent of smoking five cigarettes a day. Now it turns out that eating an egg is the equivalent of going out for a five-mile run. Well, not quite, I exaggerate for effect.

I would like to know how the vegan network will decide to ignore and/or rubbish this study. Which they will undoubtedly try to do. Perhaps we should await some more pseudo-science from Dr Bernard, of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). This sounds like a proper scientific organisation, but it is, at core, a highly vociferous, vegan pressure group.

Dr Bernard, up to now, has this to say about egg consumption:

‘Since one egg has the same amount of cholesterol as a Big Mac, it is unnecessary – even detrimental to your health – to consume eggs or egg products. One egg has more cholesterol than your body needs. In fact, any added dietary cholesterol is unnecessary because our bodies already produce more than the amount we require.

An excess of cholesterol leads to heart disease, so it’s no surprise that a 2010 study in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology found that those who consume the most eggs have a 19 percent increased risk for cardiovascular problems.3

One egg has more cholesterol than your body needs? What, per day, per week, per month…ever? In fact, a large egg contains around 185mg of cholesterol. An average adult will synthesize about 1gram of cholesterol per day. So, please try getting your facts somewhere close to correct.

I should add here that I have nothing against anyone deciding to be vegan. It is a lifestyle choice that I respect and can understand. I don’t agree with it, but everyone is free to make their own decisions. What I do not like is when science is sacrificed at the altar of a belief system, and people are then persuaded to take unhealthy decisions. Such as avoiding eggs.

Having got that off my chest, I will say that, to those who made the “What The Health” documentary, to those in the PCRM and the wider vegan community, I invite you to attack this study. Or maybe you are too ‘frit’ to enter the battleground.

References

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