Comparing eggs to cigarettes

Eggs are one of the most concentrated sources of cholesterol in the American diet, but how much does that dietary cholesterol actually impact blood cholesterol and heart disease risk? A recent study investigated egg consumption and cigarette smoking in relation to atherosclerotic plaque in the carotid artery – headlines proclaimed “Egg yolks almost as bad as smoking.” Is this a valid assessment of the data? Let’s look at all the science on eggs and heart disease and find out.

First, how much does the dietary cholesterol found in egg yolks impact blood cholesterol?
Many studies have investigated this, and the consensus is that dietary cholesterol does raise serum total cholesterol somewhat, but to a very small degree compared with dietary saturated or trans fat.1, 2 Dietary cholesterol elevates serum LDL and HDL cholesterol; meta-analysis of several studies showed that the dietary cholesterol from eggs is associated with an increase in the ratio of total to HDL (“good”) cholesterol, which is an indicator of increased cardiovascular risk. These authors reported that the cholesterol from 3-4 eggs per week would elevate total:HDL ratio an amount estimated to translate into 2.1% increase in heart attack risk.3 A small increase in risk, but still an increase.

Are people that eat more eggs more likely to have heart attacks and strokes?
Because of eggs’ high cholesterol content, many observational studies have relied on egg consumption as a marker of cholesterol intake. These previous studies have not shown a clear increase in heart attack, stroke, or death from cardiovascular disease in those who eat the most eggs. The Physicians’ Health Study, however, reported a 23% increase in death risk in those who ate more than one egg/day.4 Interestingly, these studies have consistently found that diabetics (who are already at increased risk) who eat more eggs do increase their risk – by a lot. The Nurses’ Health Study, Health Professionals Follow-up Study, and Physicians’ Health Study reported that diabetics who eat more than one egg/day double their cardiovascular disease or death risk compared to diabetics that ate less than one egg per week.5,6 A Greek study of diabetics reported a 5-fold increase in cardiovascular death risk in those eating one egg/day or more.7 Collectively from these data, we can conclude that eggs are likely only to be dangerous in large quantities (more than one egg/day) for healthy individuals, but could be more problematic for populations at risk of cardiovascular disease, such as diabetics. Interestingly, eating 5 eggs/week or more is also associated with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes (not to mention prostate cancer).8,9

In contrast, cigarette smoking is very clearly linked to heart disease, stroke, and death. Cigarette smoking is estimated to cause over 400,000 deaths per year in the U.S. alone, one-third of which are related to cardiovascular disease.10

The new study – eggs, cigarettes, and carotid plaque area
Twelve-hundred patients answered questionnaires on their diet and lifestyle, and had ultrasound-based measurements of their total carotid artery plaque area, a strong predictor of future cardiovascular events.11 The authors found similar steep increases in plaque area with increasing “pack-years” of smoking (number of packs/day multiplied by number of years of smoking) and “egg-yolk years” (number of egg yolks/week multiplied by number of years consumed). Importantly, egg yolk consumption and smoking history were not significantly correlated – this means that the people that ate the most eggs were not necessarily the ones who smoked the most. Since carotid plaque area increased more steeply with egg-yolk years and pack-years than with age, the authors concluded that both factors accelerate plaque development. The group with the greatest number of egg-yolk years (200 or more) had plaque development equivalent to 2/3 that of those with the greatest number of pack-years of smoking (more than 40). For example, the data suggests that someone who had eaten 5 eggs/week for 40 years would have 2/3 the amount of plaque as someone who smoked one pack of cigarettes a day for 40 years, other factors being equal.

In addition, they found that subjects eating more than 3 eggs/week (compared to less than 2 eggs/week) had significantly more carotid plaque area – even after statistical controls for a number of factors, including serum cholesterol. This indicates that eggs may increase atherosclerotic plaque development in ways unrelated to elevating blood cholesterol.

The bottom line on eggs
Eggs do contribute some vitamins and minerals and are likely one of the better choices when it comes to animal foods.12 However, there is no nutritional advantage for getting vitamin A/ carotenoids, folate, minerals, etc. from eggs rather than from plant foods. Plus, eggs are extremely rich in animal protein, which is not health-promoting. Although previous studies have not seen increased cardiovascular risk in individuals eating up to one egg/day, the new study has identified increased carotid artery plaque in individuals eating 3 eggs/week or more. Taking all this research into account, and comparing to the sobering statistics on cigarette smoking, “eggs are almost as bad as smoking” is probably an overstatement; however, eggs may be more harmful to cardiovascular health than the earlier studies suggested; larger, long-term studies will help to determine the magnitude of risk associated with eggs. If you are at risk of cardiovascular disease, the potential risks of egg consumption must be considered. The associations of eggs with diabetes and prostate cancer must also be considered.


Those with diabetes or cardiovascular disease or at high risk for these conditions (overweight or high cholesterol) should not eat eggs, though 1-2 eggs per week in a slim, healthy individual who is not eating many other animal products is unlikely to be harmful.

 

References:

1. Clarke R, Frost C, Collins R, et al. Dietary lipids and blood cholesterol: quantitative meta-analysis of metabolic ward studies. BMJ 1997;314:112-117.
2. Howell WH, McNamara DJ, Tosca MA, et al. Plasma lipid and lipoprotein responses to dietary fat and cholesterol: a meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr 1997;65:1747-1764.
3. Weggemans RM, Zock PL, Katan MB. Dietary cholesterol from eggs increases the ratio of total cholesterol to high-density lipoprotein cholesterol in humans: a meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr 2001;73:885-891.
4. Djousse L, Gaziano JM. Egg consumption in relation to cardiovascular disease and mortality: the Physicians' Health Study. Am J Clin Nutr 2008;87:964-969.
5. Qureshi AI, Suri FK, Ahmed S, et al. Regular egg consumption does not increase the risk of stroke and cardiovascular diseases. Med Sci Monit 2007;13:CR1-8.
6. Hu FB, Stampfer MJ, Rimm EB, et al. A prospective study of egg consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease in men and women. JAMA 1999;281:1387-1394.
7. Trichopoulou A, Psaltopoulou T, Orfanos P, et al. Diet and physical activity in relation to overall mortality amongst adult diabetics in a general population cohort. J Intern Med 2006;259:583-591.
8. Djousse L, Gaziano JM, Buring JE, et al. Egg consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes in men and women. Diabetes Care 2009;32:295-300.
9. Richman EL, Kenfield SA, Stampfer MJ, et al. Egg, red meat, and poultry intake and risk of lethal prostate cancer in the prostate-specific antigen-era: incidence and survival. Cancer Prev Res (Phila) 2011;4:2110-2121.
10. Roger VL, Go AS, Lloyd-Jones DM, et al. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics--2012 Update: A Report From the American Heart Association. Circulation 2012;125:e2-e220.
11. Spence JD, Eliasziw M, DiCicco M, et al. Carotid plaque area: a tool for targeting and evaluating vascular preventive therapy. Stroke 2002;33:2916-2922.
12. Applegate E. Introduction: nutritional and functional roles of eggs in the diet. J Am Coll Nutr 2000;19:495S-498S.

 

 

 

Eggs and poultry with skin double prostate cancer recurrence risk

Approximately 1300 men who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer were followed for two years to document their dietary patterns and recurrence or progression of their disease. In this study, two specific animal foods were found to be risky - the men that ate the most eggs or poultry with skin were twice as likely to have their disease recur or progress.1

This study makes three important points.

  1. Diet does matter, even after a prostate cancer diagnosis.
  2. There is something in chicken, specifically in the crispy outer portion and skin that is powerfully cancer-inducing. Heterocyclic amines, carcinogenic compounds that are formed when meat is cooked at high temperatures, are a probable culprit. A November 2009 study of 175,000 men showed an increase in prostate cancer risk with consumption of barbequed and grilled meat.2
  3. Consumption of eggs and egg whites is not without risk. Eggs are high in animal protein, which has been linked to cancers. Our populations’ idea that more protein is favorable and that egg (whites) are the perfect food does not hold up to scrutiny. Eggs also could affect prostate cancer due to their high choline content – egg consumption increases the amount of choline in the plasma, and high plasma choline increases prostate cancer risk.3 

Four previous studies implementing a plant-based diet and exercise following prostate cancer diagnosis found a decrease in prostate cancer progression rates.4 

Dietary strategy for prostate health 

 

References:

1. Richman EL et al. Intakes of meat, fish, poultry, and eggs and risk of prostate cancer progression. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Dec 30. [Epub ahead of print]

2. Sinha R et al. Meat and meat-related compounds and risk of prostate cancer in a large prospective cohort study in the United States. Am J Epidemiol. 2009 Nov 1;170(9):1165-77. Epub 2009 Oct 6.

3. http://www.foodnavigator.com/Science-Nutrition/Meat-not-linked-to-prostate-cancer-recurrence-risk

4. R. W.-L. Ma, K. Chapman. A systematic review of the effect of diet in prostate cancer prevention and treatment. J Hum Nutr Diet, 22, pp. 187–199 

Diabetes Still Slamming the U.S.

Type-2 diabetes continues to wreak havoc in the United States. An estimated 24 million Americans have diabetes, up more than 3 million since 2005. This staggering figure also means increased incidences of heart disease, stroke, blindness, amputations, kidney disease, nervous system damage and other diabetes-related complications. Not surprising, experts cite weight-loss and lifestyle changes, such as exercise and healthy diet, as the best ways to stave off type-2 diabetes; HealthDay News reports.

Don’t be 24 million and one. A vegetable-based nutrient-dense diet not only prevents type-2 diabetes, but can reverse the effects of the disease. Many of Dr. Fuhrman’s patients actually kick their need for insulin! Wholesome foods, like green vegetables, beans, eggplant, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, garlic, raw nuts and seeds are the perfect medicine against type-2 diabetes.

In other diabetes news, recent reports show cancer is more lethal in diabetics and eating eggs boost diabetes-risk.

Heart Failure: Eggs Bad, Whole-Grains Better

Recent studies have shown egg consumption is linked to diabetes risk and risk of death. And now, new research in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association reveals each serving of dairy or eggs increases heart failure risk by 8% to 23%. Conversely, each serving of whole grains dropped heart risk by 7% in middle-aged men and women. Both results account for other factors that might impact heart failure risk, such as calorie intake, lifestyle, heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension; Reuters reports.

Now, don’t go grain crazy! Grains are okay, but Dr. Fuhrman recommends eating more fruits and vegetables instead. Grains aren’t as nutrient-dense. And fruits and veggies are the ultimate heart-protectors, capable of preventing and reversing cardiovascular disease.

The Chinese, whose classic diet involved a lot of fruits and vegetables, have departed from their traditional ways and subsequently suffer from more heart disease and obesity as they consume more eggs, meat and fat, and less plant foods.
 

Michael Phelps Still Eats like a Slob...

Michael Phelps might be an Olympic stud, but the dude’s got a horrible diet, consuming 12,000 calories a day, gorging on fried eggs, mayonnaise and pancakes. But he told CBS it isn’t true, he only eats 10,000 calories a day, stuff like peanut butter cups and quesadillas. Eek!

Who knew Olympic champions eat like crap. Recently, Michael Phelps stopped by The Colbert Report and said he’s out of shape and gained a few pounds. But in January he’ll start training for the 2012 London Olympics. So he’s got 4 years to burn off all the mayo!

Via That’sFit.

Eggs Boost Diabetes Risk...

Eating eggs may increase type-2 diabetes risk. A new study in Diabetes Care claims men consuming 7 or more eggs per week are 58% more likely to develop type-2 diabetes and women are 77% more likely; from MedPage Today.

“The combination of being overweight and eggs, likely the cholesterol, do something to either impair pancreatic function or impair glucose tolerance,” explains Dr. Fuhrman. And initially this research found eating 7 or more eggs a week increased death-risk in men.