Eggs once again have hit the news headlines perhaps to end the ongoing debate related to its association with cardiovascular disease and stroke. A study with nearly half a million population in China suggests that having an egg per day may cut down your risk for heart disease.
Eggs, in spite of being a fantastic source of vital nutrients and bioactive compounds (phospholipids and carotenoids) have been vilified since long for its high cholesterol content. Though experts have always advocated including eggs as a part of the healthy diet but doubts regarding the safe consumption-count dwelled in people’s mind. With the recent study report, eggs are likely to make a great comeback in almost everybody’s daily breakfast menu.
The WHO declares cardiovascular diseases as the leading cause of death and disability worldwide killing 17.7 million people annually. In China, hemorrhagic stroke accounts for most of the deaths followed by heart ailments.
Key findings of the study:
Data for this recent study were collected from China Kadoorie Biobank (CKB) involving 0.5 million Chinese adults aged 30-79 from ten diverse regions of China. The study was focused on 416, 213 participants without any previous record of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancer. At the beginning of the study, 13.1% of participants stated daily egg consumption (around 0.76 eggs per day). 19.1% participants never or rarely consumed eggs.
It was found:
- Those who consumed one egg per day had a reduced risk of hemorrhagic stroke by 26%, cardiovascular death by 18% and death from hemorrhagic stroke by 28%.
- Daily egg consumers (consuming 5.32 eggs per week) had a lower risk of ischemic heart disease by 12% than those who never or rarely consumed eggs (about 2.03 eggs per week).
- Daily egg consumption is associated with lower risks of heart disease.
NHS reports: Having an egg a day cuts the risks of a fatal stroke:
A couple of year back, a cohort study covering 300,000 people suggested that having an egg per day may lower the risk of stroke but not the risk of CVDs. However, researchers could not establish any linkage between the heart disease and lowered risk of stroke comparing people eating one egg per day and those taking less than two eggs per week.
It was also could not be established that eating more eggs was better. However, the report was greeted more with enthusiasm and mild criticism considering the reduced risk of stroke by 12% from daily egg consumption as an exaggeration.
The headlines published in Times said egg consumption may reduce the chances of stroke. The study could not establish a significant statistical difference in the risk between regular and seldom egg consumers.
It would be worth recalling that British Heart Foundation in 2007 pulled out is advice of limiting egg consumption to only three per week on the basis of new evidence that cholesterol from the egg has very little impact on the serum cholesterol. [http://www.bbc.com]
Another research report published by JAMA in 1999 after two large cohort studies found that consuming one egg per day cannot be associated with increased risk of heart disease in healthy individuals.
Epidemiologic studies and controlled clinical trials have shown that consuming unsaturated fats instead of saturated fats is more effective in lowering CVD risk than by reducing the total intake of saturated fats. [https://www.tandfonline.com/]
A large sized egg contains only 1.5 gm of saturated fat which is negligible considering the total amount of fat that we take from other sources. The cohort studies can help in identifying the link between the factors (risk of cardiac disease and egg eating habit) but cannot fully establish the cause-effect linkage.
What led to a change in opinion?
Certainly, the cholesterol and fat content in the egg did not change. The new study is likely to help in the shifting of thinking where it needs to assess the health benefit of eggs instead of assigning a ‘dangerous food’ tag to it.
Our liver produces much of the cholesterol stimulated by the intake of saturated and trans-fat which contributes to the total serum cholesterol. Though the cholesterol content in the egg is high about 200 mg, it is mostly the HDL or good cholesterol which is good for heart.
Eggs contain omega-3 fatty acids and a good amount of protein that can slow down your hunger pangs and help in overcoming overweight conditions. Therefore, observations from this large group study impart a strong reason not to take egg as a villainous food item.
Should you mind the count?
The key take-home message of the recent research is to consume eggs in moderation. For a healthy individual maintaining average physical activities, eating one is advisable than consuming 2-3 eggs at a time for 2/3 days a week.
We should also note that the participants in the research did not have any previous medical history of heart disease, cancer etc. Some research suggests that people with Type 2 diabetes may have an increased risk of heart disease if they ate one or more than one egg every day.
Those with preexisting diabetes, heart ailments or at a higher risk for heart disease can take at most 3 eggs per week or as advised by the dietician. People sensitive to taking dietary cholesterol whose LDL level shoots faster than others should also limit their egg consumption.
How you eat eggs matters most:
Cholesterol content in one egg is quantified. So people are quick to discard or reduce its consumption for the sake of their heart. But what isn’t quantified is the amount of unhealthy fat that we consume daily along with our food.
Therefore, how you eat eggs and your average fat consumption matters in the long run. If you are not eating eggs but consuming unhealthy fats means your heart is at a higher risk of developing serious diseases than those eating eggs in a healthy manner.
Having fried omelets daily is not a good option for a heart-healthy diet. If you are having boiled or poached egg with buttered toasts, the butter will be the cholesterol aggravator but not the egg. Dieticians, generally, recommend taking boiled or poached eggs to derive its maximum health benefits.
Eggs eaten with mushrooms, spinach, multi-grained breads, avocado or tomato are good dietary options beneficial for your overall health. It is not wise to keep this nutrient-dense food item out of your menu. Neither is it a good decision to choose eggs as the only nutrition source to keep your heart healthy.