Throw the Yolk or Keep? Banishing the Never-ending Egg Myth

“I thought they said only 3 whole eggs per week?” Say my clients everytime we get into the topic of eggs. Many of them that have tossed these lovely oval gems for something more “healthy” or low-fat like oatmeal with fruit- which I won’t deconstruct in this post, but will revisit in a future post. Back to eggs- Yes, the recommendation for eggs per day has changed, yet again. Nutrition is a relatively young science and recommendations will continue to change as new research will show. Which is great for us self-proclaimed “forever students” but very (for lack of a better word) annoying for our general consumers. Here is the back story and the current recommendation:  In the 1970’s the American Heart Association recommended limiting egg intake to a maximum of three per week, an idea that us as dietitians hear almost daily. We see our clients skip the eggs and continue to consume record numbers of red meat. The current recommendation for total cholesterol intake has been altered to less than 300 mg per day, and an egg provides a 212 mg and 70 calories per egg.  However a study published in 2013 suggests that eating more eggs is not associated with higher serum cholesterol.

A study led by researchers at the University of Granada, involving nine countries, analyzed the link between egg intake in adolescents and the main risk factors for developing cardiovascular diseases, such as lipid profile, excess body fat, insulin resistance and high blood pressure.  The study demonstrated that eating larger amounts of egg is neither linked to higher serum cholesterol nor to worse cardiovascular health in adolescents, regardless of their levels of physical activity. 

The most recent research suggests that increased serum cholesterol is more affected by intake of saturated fats and trans fats, which are present in red meat, industrial baked goods, etc. than by the amount of cholesterol in the diet. The problem is that the majority of foods rich in cholesterol are usually also high in saturated fats. Now, the difference between an egg and other high cholesterol foods is that it is made up of VERY LITTLE SATURATED FAT, 1 GRAM PER EGG.

However, the limitation to the study is that it was done on adolescents. Eggs are a quick source of protein for our patients and easy on the teeth! Cholesterol is found in the yolk of the egg.

BOTTOM LINE: Look at the big picture! Limit egg consumption to one per day and add egg whites (which come conveniently in liquid containers now) and reduce dairy, red meat and dark chicken and turkey meats to control cholesterol. 

Still not convinced?  Read the Finnish study referenced (2) below:

1. A. Soriano-Maldonado, M. Cuenca-García, L. A. Moreno, M. González-Gross, C.  Leclercq, O. Androutsos, E. J. Guerra-Hernández, M. J. Castillo y J. R. Ruiz. Ingesta de huevo y factores de riesgo cardiovascular en adolescentes;  papel de la actividad física. Estudio HELENA. Nutrición Hospitalaria, 2013;  28:868-877 DOI:10.3305/nh.2013.28.3.6392

2. J. K. Virtanen, J. Mursu, H. E. Virtanen, M. Fogelholm, J. T. Salonen, T. T. Koskinen, S.  Voutilainen, T.-P. Tuomainen. Associations of egg and cholesterol intakes with carotid intima-media thickness and risk of incident coronary artery disease according to apolipoprotein E phenotype in men: the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2016; DOI:10.3945/ajcn.115.122317

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