What’s the Deal with Eggs?

Is the Verdict STILL out on eggs?
Is the Verdict STILL out on eggs?

Have you all noticed the recent trend of medical professionals/nutritional scientists overturning the findings of other medical professionals/nutritional scientists? It’s kinda driving me batty. For instance, a few years back “they” all encouraged us to drink a glass of wine a day to ward off heart disease and obesity and to increase our longevity, but now “they” say as little as a glass of wine a day can lead to certain cancers in women. Granted, neither study influenced my wine intake one way or another, but I get peeved when “they” give me such a good justification for my propensity to sip a glass of Pinot with dinner only to yank away my pro-wine-imbibing talking-point willy-nilly, without the least consideration for my feelings on the matter (or the havoc that this news might wreak on my ability to persuade my tea-totaling family members to join me in a toast).

But the wine thing isn’t the controversy I want to hash out with ESers.  My concern stems from the GREAT EGG DEBATE. And where better to discuss eggs than ES? I’m really frustrated by the lack of clear answers on the egg question. There are so many conflicting findings floating about the interwebs and in the medical journals that I really don’t know what to believe anymore.

In the 1960s a pretty damning study linked eggs to high cholesterol and all the resultant evils (heart disease, early death, etc). We were advised to restrict our egg consumption to one egg a week.  Scientists warned that there are a full 213 mg of cholesterol in one large egg – all of which is contained in that pearly golden ball we call the yolk.

By the time I was a teenager a different study, much lauded by the egg industry, reversed some of the first study’s findings, and promoted the idea that eating up to three eggs a week (eggs in moderation) was actually nutritionally beneficial. Then another study touted the benefits of egg whites, one of the most high protein foods, no fat and no cholesterol.  We were told, we would do best to avoid whole eggs entirely and stick to the virtuous egg whites. Eggbeaters made their debut in the grocery stores and the option of egg white omelets became a staple at brunch places nation wide. The 2000s have been peppered with conflicting studies touting and assailing eggs.  Last year a study showed that egg whites do not pack the same nutritional punch as yolks, and “they” began recommending the eating of the whole egg yet again. This year the debate is still raging, and while ES has traditionally been a stronghold of the pro-egg lobby, I think it’s time that we have a frank discussion on this blog about the possible benefits and deleterious health effects of constant egg-eating.

Here are some tidbits to get the discussion going:

In May of 2001, Reuters reported on a study conducted by the  American Journal of Clinical Nutrition which found that the benefits of eggs had been overblown and that limiting egg consumption was still a good idea.

The bottom line, write researchers in the May issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, is that people should limit egg consumption to reduce their risk of heart disease. “The advice to limit cholesterol intake by reducing consumption of eggs and other cholesterol-rich foods may…still be valid,” conclude lead author Rianne M. Weggemans and colleagues from Wageningen University in the Netherlands….In addition, the researchers showed that because of the additional cholesterol, consuming one more egg per day would increase the risk of heart attack by about 2%, which on a population level is substantial.

But this February, Canadian and British researchers released a study that (as you can imagine) has given Gansie’s fried egg obsession a new razon d’etre.  The Telegraph in a story entitled “Fried eggs could help keep blood-down,”  reports that:

Scientists have discovered that eggs produce proteins that mimic the action of blood pressure-lowering drugs. And fried eggs are especially beneficial. Researchers, from the University of Alberta in Canada, showed that when eggs come in contact with stomach enzymes they produce a protein that acts in the same way as prescription only Ace inhibitors….Until just a few years ago the British Heart Foundation advised people to eat no more than three eggs a week. But the British Nutrition Foundation concluded that it is healthy to go to work on an egg.

Well, that seems like a pretty good case for upping egg consumption to an egg a day, right?  Hmmm… not so fast.

Diabetics and those prone to diabetes are still discouraged from eating egg yolks at all, and the American Heart Association’s website still promotes the consumption of egg whites over whole eggs. In fact, the America Heart Association recommends:

An egg can fit within heart-healthy guidelines for those [healthy] people only if cholesterol from other sources — such as meats, poultry and dairy products — is limited. For example, eating one egg for breakfast, drinking two cups of coffee with one tablespoon of half-and-half each, lunching on four ounces of lean turkey breast without skin and one tablespoon of mayonnaise, and having a 6-ounce serving of broiled, short loin porterhouse steak for dinner would account for about 510 mg of dietary cholesterol that day — nearly twice the recommended limit. If you’re going to eat an egg every morning, substitute vegetables for some of the meat, or drink your coffee without half-and-half in the example above. And remember that many other foods, especially baked goods, are prepared with eggs — and those eggs count toward your daily cholesterol limit.

Sounds like no eggs and bacon for you BS!

American Heart Association Crushes BS's DreamsAmerican Heart Association Crushes BS’s Dreams

The Harvard School of Public Health confirms that while eggs shouldn’t be vilified as they once were as the source of heart disease in Americans, “new research doesn’t give the green light to daily three-egg omelets.”  HSPH further warns,  that we “need to pay attention to the “trimmings” that come with your eggs.”

I don’t know folks. It’s all very confusing and unlike my firmly framed (self-serving) beliefs about wine, my feelings about eggs are still in their nascent stages (I didn’t grow up in a BIG EGG household and I only recently was  tempted toward real egg eating by Gansie’s glorious pictures of  a lusciously plated vermilion tomato being coyly kissed by a canary-yellow, just running yolk).

So, when science fails me I turn to the blogosphere.  ES crowd: Before you slurp up that next runny egg yolk, please lend your wisdom to The Great Egg Debate!

[poll id=”36″]

Previous Opinions on ES:

What’s the Deal with Mozzarella Sticks?

What’s the Deal with Iced Coffee

I Will Poop On Cereal

Getting a Chip off My Shoulder

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  • Boyd Logan June 1, 2009  

    Pollan’s In Defense of Food does a really good job of explaining the polemic pendulum swings of the “science” of nutritionism. Basically, food “scientists” like to focus in on quantifiable things, such as specific, single compounds (like cholestorol, Omega-3, etc..). Many of these same “scientists” are bankrolled by big food. It’s good business to keep the nutritional market boiling in a reactionary state: damn the nutritional findings of yesterday, hold up today’s findings as the “answer,” and research to uncover tomorrow’s fad.

  • BS June 1, 2009  

    If you believed every “study” you read, you would have to think that every single edible and drinkable thing both causes and cures cancer.

  • C. Christy Concrete June 1, 2009  

    I second Boyd’s comment; most of the nutritional guidelines released by the government, like the food pyramid, are devised by the Department of Agriculture, which is in bed with Big Food, and who are more concerned about the volume of food people eat than the impact of that food on their bodies.

    It’s funny to see the constant back-and-forth between fad diets written by greedy faux-nutritionists and constantly retrofitted government health advisories. People are going to eat what they want anyway.

  • Harmony June 1, 2009  

    Everything in moderation is my rule of thumb, whether it’s eggs or chocolate, wine or rare red beef. As an aside, as I was drooling over that lovely pic above of eggs, my son came in and said “who would eat eggs that dirty, and such old looking green beans!”.It made me laugh so thought I’d share.

  • Rebecca June 1, 2009  

    Luckily, I find that my egg consumption rarely exceeds three eggs a week because egg cravings are fickle mistresses; quick to arrive and take over all other food desires but one unbidden whiff of egg is enough to put me off them for months at a time. A much bigger source of egg-related anxiety is my concerning addiction to homemade mayonnaise.

  • BS June 1, 2009  

    LOL@harmony. I love how when you’re a kid you just assume that things like pepper flakes are dirt.

  • Maids June 1, 2009  

    @Rebecca – homemade mayonnaise? Does that taste any better than store-bought, because I’ve hated mayo all my life, but maybe it’s just the store bought crap. On second thought, never mind, I don’t need a new unhealthy obsession!

  • Michael June 1, 2009  

    Eggs are delicious, and I’m prone to be very skeptical about any research telling me not to eat anything that’s been a staple of the human diet for, basically, ever.

    Plus, the problem with all of those studies is less what they actually say than what the press reports. All the things you linked to are basically press releases.

  • Maids June 1, 2009  

    You know, recently I realized that more than anything, I see eggs as a vehicle for salt. I don’t know how much I really appreciate them in and of themselves…. They are aesthetically very pleasing however.

  • Rebecca June 1, 2009  

    Homemade mayo is easy and yes, more delicious (with the caveat that I enjoy mayonnaise even when it comes from the grocery store and miraculously does not require refrigeration): http://culinaryarts.about.com/od/saladdressings/ss/mayonnaise.htm. You can also get fancy and add different flavors, like paprika (great to use as a base for deviled eggs), or herbs, or go sweet and add honey. You can use it as a dip. We like to make it when we get eggs from the farmers market, with their thick, strong shells and firm, compact, dark colored yolks. I’m such a snob about eggs that I won’t really eat the cheap supermarket kind unless I am baking and it is an absolute emergency. Huge difference in taste. Makes an egg salad sandwich into a delicacy.

  • Liza June 1, 2009  

    I am so off and on with eggs – sometimes they sound amazing and that will last for a month or so, and then for like 3 months I can’t imagine wanting one.

  • Yvo June 2, 2009  

    Your poll didn’t really have an accurate description for me… I say they’re fine in moderation. Like everything else in the world. Some weeks I eat a lot of eggs, others, not so much, but I always have a carton in my fridge. (I’m trying to eat more eggs right now, ironically, as I blindly picked up 3 dozen brown eggs for $1.99. The price got to me, ok?!) I did read on the egg site recently there’s no cholesterol in egg whites apparently but I can’t throw away egg yolks – the best part, and Gansie would surely kill me! – so I’ll keep eating my fried egg 2-3 times a month.

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