A new study claims eggs may be on par with cigarettes in terms of how bad they are for heart health.
Perhaps you’ve heard this, and have been fretting that your beloved and dependable eggs were all of a sudden a poor breakfast choice.
But, fear not!
As you know, I’m a big fan of eating eggs for breakfast, but not at the expense of my own health, or yours.
So, I was keen to check out this study, and see what all the hype was about.
Thankfully, I’m not alone in my conclusions, with many health professionals and others speaking out in support of the humble little egg.
The Study: Are Eggs Bad For You?
The study, which took the form of a survey, asked just over 1,200 stroke patients about their egg consumption and cigarette habit.
They concluded that eating egg yolks on a regular basis is approximately two-thirds as bad as smoking, in terms of the buildup of plaque in the arteries.
Researchers also noted those who were oldest ate the most eggs, and had the most plaque. From this they surmised that eggs must be the cause.
However, previous studies have already shown that as you get older, more plaque builds up.
So, I would suggest the higher plaque noted in older individuals, is simply the result of aging. It does not necessarily show a ’cause’ and ‘effect,’ that is, eating eggs leads to plaque buildup.
As you know, I don’t make a habit of detailing the weaknesses of every study that is published. However, this study was flawed from the outset, and given the media’s unreasonable coverage of these results, I felt is was something important to discuss.
The Research Flaws
1. Clear Conflict Of Interest
I think it’s important to point out that two of the researchers in this study (Spence and Davignon) have extensive ties to the statin industry.
(See the ‘footnote’ at the bottom of this research paper.)
It seems pretty obvious that the companies who produce statins (cholesterol lowering drugs) might just have a vested interest in making us all afraid of eggs and cholesterol.
Call me crazy, but I find it hard to believe this is not a massive conflict of interest.
2. Self Reported Evidence
The data collected was based on self reported evidence. This is highly inaccurate and dependent on each subjects memory and honesty.
In fact, the authors acknowledge their results are rather weak. This has not, however, stopped the media jumping on these claims, and running with them like a dog with a new bone.
I suppose, “Eggs Are Nearly As Bad For Your Arteries As Cigarettes,” as one newspaper claimed, makes a great headline.
In case you don’t realize the utter uselessness of this type of study design, here’s a test for you…
Try to remember how many eggs you ate over the entire year in 2011.
I’m sure you get the point!
Expecting people to remember accurately how many eggs they consumed last year is impossible, never mind trying to recall every last egg they’ve ever eaten.
At best you could make an educated guess. But, that kind of data is close to useless in terms of a scientific study.
3. Didn’t Look At Egg Preparation
When asked about egg consumption, the researchers did not take into consideration how the eggs were prepared, neither were they queried about what had been consumed along with those eggs.
Think about it, the stuff a lot of people eat with their eggs is usually sausages, bacon, breads and vegetable oils. There are also the other foods that contain eggs, like cookies and mayonnaise.
I’d hazard a guess that at least some of those questioned were eating unhealthy foods along with their egg.
For this research to have been taken seriously, it’s an absolute must that this was accounted for. It wasn’t!
4. Comparing “Apples” With “Pears”
Then, there’s the nonsense of equating cigarette smoking with eating eggs.
This makes no sense. At. All.
If eggs were to have an impact on heart disease it would be indirect. That is, the eggs have to first increase cholesterol levels to create plaque buildup.
Smoking, on the other hand, has a direct impact on heart disease, because smoking causes arteries to become inflamed, which makes the body respond and make plaque.
Therefore, although is may sound convincing to claim, “Egg yolks appears to be approximately 2/3 that of smoking,” is doesn’t make sense.
The Research Has Been Criticized
Dr. Steven Nissen, who chairs the department of Cardiovascular Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, said;
This is very poor quality research that should not influence patient’s dietary choices.
I couldn’t agree more!
How To Keep Your Heart Healthy
There are a few important things you can do to reduce your risk of heart disease, which do not include avoiding eggs.
1. Balance Your Fat Ratio
Many people are eating fats in an unbalanced ratio. One study emphasized this by saying:
Excessive amounts of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and a very high omega-6/omega-3 ratio, as is found in today’s Western diets, promote the pathogenesis of many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, whereas increased levels of omega-3 PUFA (a low omega-6/omega-3 ratio) exert suppressive effects.
In particular, you should try to lower the amount of vegetable oils in your diet, and eat high quality, animal-based sources of omega 3 fats.
See my article on omega 6 fatty acids for more tips on what to eat.
2. Take Regular Exercise
So, try to exercise regularly, and make sure you are adding some high intensity interval training in there, too.
3. Reduce Your Waist Size
If you carry too much weight around your waist, this is particularly problematic, since research shows this as a strong risk factor for plaque buildup.
Losing those extra inches will go a long way towards solving the problem.
As a very rough guideline:
- Men should try to keep their waist circumference well under 40 inches.
- Women should try to keep their waist circumference well under 35 inches.
To measure your waist circumference, place the tape measure around the smallest area of your abdomen below your rib cage and above your belly button.
Also, don’t smoke!
What do you think, are eggs bad for you? Do you eat them regularly?