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It has been a couple of weeks since headlines told us that eating eggs is almost as dangerous to your heart as smoking cigarettes. When I first heard it, I thought it's just another sensational headline that nobody will pay attention to but time has passed and I continue to get questions from friends, clients and even someone in the grocery store as I was reaching for a carton of eggs to put in my cart.
These headlines came from a study conducted at The University of Western Ontario that was published online in the journal Atherosclerosis. It studied about 1200 people who attended vascular prevention clinics at London Health Sciences Centre University Hospital. Researchers did ultrasounds to look at plaque in participant's arteries and looked at questionnaires from them about lifestyle and medications including smoking habits and egg yolks per week.
When I read the study, I saw immediately there were some big flaws. The researchers did not look at the overall diet or the saturated fats from others sources in the diets of the participants. So, it's possible that some participants were eating those eggs with sausages and/or bacon but that would not show up or influenece this study. The study also did not take into account the effect of plaque buildup related to a lack of exercise, body weight or waist size.
And, it's a well known fact that saturated fat, waist circumference and exercise can all play a role in heart disease risk.
I find this very troubling because it's shining a negative spotlight on a single food without putting it into any context that makes sense. And, it's these kinds of studies that make so many people mistrust all the messages we are sending.
Lets put eggs into a better, healthier context!
A single egg has about 75 calories and provides inexpensive but high quality protein, vitamins A, D, E, B12 and folate plus iron, zinc, selenium and choline. It also provides lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants linked to risk of age related macular degeneration. On egg contains about 5 grams of fat, but only 1.5 grams are from saturated fat.
Yes, eggs do contain some cholesterol - about 190 mg in a large yolk. For most healthy people, the cholesterol in your diet is not as significant as the cholesterol that your body produces. Now, there are some people who have to be more careful. People who are more sensitive to the cholesterol in food and/or have very high LDL-cholesterol are generally advised to limit their consumption of yolks to about 3 per week, And, research suggest that this same advice applies to older adults with diabetes.
So, for most healthy adults, there is no reason not to have an egg for breakfast.
The bottom line: When you read these somewhat sensational headlines, try to read between the lines and see what the evidence really is. If the news troubles you, speak to a doctor or dietitian or health care person who can put it into perspective for you. Try not to put too much faith in a single small study that seems to draw a broad, sweeping conclusion. Be careful of reports that blame a single food or group of foods for causing us problems. And, never change your life style based on a single study.
As always, if it sounds too good to be true (or false) it probably is.
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