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Eggs – how much do we really know about them? It’s about time that we dug into the science, and really discovered what it means to eat eggs. Join me on this journey, and will scour the science and find the truth – for your benefit. Are you ready to find out if eggs are incredible or if they are inedible?
There are plenty of things that you and I here, as popular theory, that really informs the way we think and feel about certain foods. Eggs are one of these things. I have recently found myself in a stage of canvassing medical research to really get to the heart of certain topics, and to determine whether or not those “popular truths” are false. With that in mind, I want to get down to a topic that solicits a lot of interest from everyone: eggs.
The Benefits of Eggs
First and foremost, eggs are good quality protein sources – they are about 6 grams of nice, complete, amino acid profiles. This means that they are of extremely high quality. They are a low quantity protein food, though, which means that if you were to fill up on eggs for breakfast, you would have to have about 4 eggs – which is not really all that possible or sustainable.
Eggs are also a good source of many nutrients. They have got:
- B vitamins
- Carotenoids (if they are grass-fed)
- Heme Iron
Key Insights: Eggs also do very well on satiety tests, which means that they can do a very good job of making us feel fuller – and less prone to snacking throughout the day.
Eggs contain choline, and for so long we thought this was a good thing. Unfortunately, the most recent research suggests that choline contains a compound known as TMAO. While the medical community is still trying to sort out whether or not it is good or bad, this adds a layer of uncertainty as to the benefits of eggs and choline.
The Fears About Eggs
Eggs are not without their fears, though! The biggest fear, and only visible one, about eggs is that they played a role in poor cholesterol. This was during the very early stages of cholesterol ideation, where cholesterol in damaged blood vessels proved that dietary forms of cholesterol were to blame in the cases of heart disease.
Key Insight: Eggs are the highest source of dietary cholesterol, but eggs do not raise cholesterol much, if at all (1). The logic behind the early understanding of dietary cholesterol was essentially flawed. While they do provide good places to begin research, it did initially rule out the cause for concern about eggs and heart disease.
Now, with more and studies into this subject, we begin to uncover not necessarily whether or not the consumption of eggs contributes negatively to blood cholesterol levels – leading to heart disease. Rather, it has become more about whether or not the consumption of eggs plays any sort of role in the risk of heart disease, and not simply from the perspective of elevated cholesterol levels. This is a much more meaningful question for our conversation today.
Bottom Line: Cholesterol is a marker, that is for sure, and those that have higher levels of cholesterol also have a higher risk for heart disease. At the same time, not everything that influences cholesterol influences heart disease (either good or bad). So, how does egg outcome correspond to heart disease?
Now that we have more and better, research into how we might be able to understand the link between eggs and heart disease exists, it is about time that we dove into it:
1. Cardiovascular Heart Disease (CHD)
It seems that for about up to 7 eggs per week, there are no positive or negative effects towards CHD in most people (2).
2. Stroke Risk
This one is a little bit different. Even if you are averaging one egg per day, about 5 eggs per week could increase your risk of suffering a stroke by 12% (3).
3. Heart Failure
At the same time, if you have more than 7 eggs per week you could increase your chances by up to 25% – in that regard, it is kind of a fine line between benefitting your body and risking your health (4).
4. Alzheimer’s and Dementia
It is a popular idea that the brain needs choline, cholesterol, and saturated fats to thrive – Therefore, eggs should be good for all of those things. That’s the theory, but the outcomes have been relatively inconclusive. Neither cholesterol nor egg intake is associated with an increased risk of incident dementia or Alzheimer’s disease in Eastern Finnish men (5).
Eggs and Cancer Risk
What about cancer? While we might have seen that the risk of heart disease is all about consumption of eggs, do eggs play a role in certain cancer risks?
1. Breast Cancer
If you have more than 5 eggs per week, there is a 4% increase in the risk of breast cancer in women (6). If you are eating 9 or more eggs per week, there is a 9% increase for risk in this same type of cancer.
2. Ovarian Cancer
Anything over 5 eggs per week follows with an 8% increase of risk in developing ovarian cancer (7).
3. Prostate Cancer
There really is not any risk of developing prostate cancer of all types, as it concerns egg consumption. But, fatal prostate cancer risk can be increased by 47% if you are at 5 eggs per week (8).
4. Bladder Cancer
For now, the relationship between eggs and bladder cancer is that there is not any conclusive outcomes to suggest that the two can be related in any way.
Eggs and Diabetes Risk
What about diabetes and its relationship with eggs? Research has shown that more than 3 eggs per week can have an increased risk for developing Type 2 diabetes (only in studies conducted in the United States). More than 4 – 5 eggs per week can increase this risk by 15%, as well (9).
Bottom Line: As far as chronic disease is concerned, eggs are typically a mixed bag. Whenever someone goes over more than 5 eggs per week, they are typically putting themselves at risk for long-term complications. That is why restricting the amount of eggs typically helps, based on the research and the outcomes we have seen to this point.
What do we do about eggs? If you are not sensitive to eggs, which some can be (10), then there is probably little downside to 3 eggs per week (for most populations). But, many folks have overt allergies to eggs – with many others having known, short-term sensitivities to eggs. So, you want to check for that and be aware of it whenever you are eating eggs (11).
Barring those scenarios, above a few per week seems to be a factor for several cancers. While it might not apply so much to heart attacks or strokes, there is a definitive risk of congestive heart failure when it comes to an excessive consumption of eggs in our diet.
How do you work eggs into your diet?
Pure and simple: I would not put eggs into your diet daily for breakfast. On occasion, one or two here and there would be perfectly fine. Building them into your routine, though, is going to shoot you well past those targets and into some definitely risky zones.
Key Insight: Small amounts of eggs in other food products are probably fine, but turning them into a daily staple sets a dangerous precedent for your health.
Put eggs into a “sometimes” or “occasional” food category in your day-to-day life. Enjoy them for Sunday morning breakfast, when you have more time during the week. Try and save them for this kind of time, that way you do not turn to them time and again when you have run out of other options. This will keep them firmly in their place, and will prevent you from relying on them and increasing your risk factors.
Bottom Line: I do not want to demonize eggs. They are neutral in many ways and also have benefits to them. What I want you to understand today is that, as helpful as eggs might be, it is all about keeping them in moderation. The studies and the research does not lie, and it proves that they can have very real and very negative outcomes if you enjoy eggs simply too much.
What kinds of eggs should I buy?
When you are walking through the grocery store, it can almost be overwhelming which kinds of eggs you should be buying. Instead of going right for the cheapest ones, or the ones that provide you with the most bang for your buck, I would definitely recommend the following:
These types of eggs typically provide more positive differences, but they should still definitely remain in the category of “sometimes” foods. Since you are going to be eating less of them, why not go for the ones that are better for you overall?
Understanding More About Eggs
There you have it, a comprehensive look into the world of eggs and the science behind them. We have done a lot of looking over the research, and I can safely say that the word on eggs is that they have tangible benefits – while having very real consequences for those who overeat them. Consider counting down the number of eggs you enjoy in the morning, and throughout the week, so that you can reduce your risks. At the same time, take the Thyroid Quiz (12) today and learn a bit more about your life and the decisions that have the same kind of long-term implications on your health that eggs can have. Do it for your body, your peace of mind, and your life.
Dr. Alan Glen Christianson (Dr. C) is a Naturopathic Endocrinologist and the author of The NY Times bestselling Adrenal Reset Diet.
Dr. C’s gift for figuring out what really works has helped hundreds of thousands of people reverse thyroid disease, lose weight, cure diabetes, and regain energy. Learn more about the surprising story that started his quest.