I've always been a fan of eggs, I admit. They are a natural, long-consumed, cheap form of protein and nutrition. So I raised my eyebrows when I saw all of the headlines saying egg yolks were as bad for your health as smoking. (Read the abstract of the study here.) It seems I wasn't the only one. Since then, many health advocates have spoken, sharing their mutual concern with the study — and their support of eating high-quality eggs.
For example, Sally Fallon Morrell, author of "Nourishing Traditions" and president of the Weston A. Price Foundation argued that this study was an example of "junk science." She explains: "Patients coming into Spence's Canadian clinic with a recent stroke and transient ischemic attack were given a dietary recall questionnaire, from which the staff estimated their 'egg-yolk years,' the number of egg yolks eaten multiplied over the number of years.
"Not surprisingly, they found that older patients had more 'egg-yolk years' than younger patients because they were ... well ... older. To be fair, the analysis was adjusted for age, but as author Zoe Harcombe points out in her blog on the study that 'the authors could have picked broccoli and measured broccoli years and the top quintile group of 70 year olds would have had 14 years more broccoli consumption than the 56 year olds.'"
Chris Masterjohn points out that this "study" is more like an "aggregation of clinical notes" and shows different ways of viewing the collected information.
Harcombe also stresses the positives shown in the study for those who ate the most eggs. "People eating an average 4.68 egg yolks per week have lower total cholesterol, lower triglycerides, higher HDL and lower LDL than people eating an average of 0.41 egg yolks per week. Omelet anyone?
"However, this also doesn't display a consistent relationship total cholesterol is highest at the mid range of egg yolk consumption, an average of 2.3 per week. Triglycerides and LDL are also highest at the midpoint of egg yolk consumption, an average of 2.3 per week. (Not that I care about any 'cholesterol levels,' but just to comment on the data in the article from people who do care about 'cholesterol levels.')
"BMI, by the way, peaks at the midpoint of egg consumption and is lowest at the highest level of egg consumption. Low carbers know why.'"
She also pointed out the Conflict of Interest section of the study which states, "Dr. Spence and Dr. Davignon have received honoraria and speaker's fees from several pharmaceutical companies manufacturing lipid-lowering drugs, and Dr. Davignon has received support from Pfizer Canada for an annual atherosclerosis symposium; his research has been funded in part by Pfizer Canada, AstraZeneca Canada Inc and Merck Frosst Canada Ltd."
Mercola states much of the same, but also points out that other studies have not found eggs detrimental to health. And finally, over at Understanding Nutrition, we have these added thoughts:
"Alternatively, this data could be interpreted completely differently. The data shows the individuals who ate the most eggs were the oldest and had the most plaque after their stroke. Perhaps the eggs actually had a protective effect allowing those who ate the most eggs to withstand more plaque buildup and live the longer before having a stroke. Those individuals who ate the fewest eggs had a stroke an average of 14 years earlier than those who ate the most eggs. Perhaps if they would have been eating more eggs, they would have lived longer without a stroke.
"It is important to remember that these epidemiological studies do not show cause and effect. They merely show correlation. They serve as a point of reference to form a hypothesis to be tested in prospective studies."
Unfortunately, the authors say, "Our findings suggest that regular consumption of egg yolk should be avoided by persons at risk of cardiovascular disease." This is not true. That statement is merely their hypothesis that needs to be tested in prospective studies. Based on my logic in the previous paragraph, with the same data I could have concluded, 'Our findings suggest that regular consumption of egg yolk should be encouraged for persons at risk of cardiovascular disease.'"
Are you convinced by the study to cut back on eggs or not?