News » From the Chairman - March 2015

From the Chairman - March 2015

March 2015 - Volume 19, Issue 3

I almost ate an egg. An egg has about 70 calories, 200 mgs of cholesterol and 1.7 g of saturated fat, almost all in the yolk. Egg whites contain no fat, no cholesterol and only 15 calories, and more than half of all the protein in a whole egg. Egg whites are just healthier and debatably tastier (with accoutrements?) So who cares if it is now deemed to be safe to eat a whole egg a day, why would you do it?

A recent article in JAMA revived this controversy. Observing participants in the Nurses’ Health Study, it concluded that eating up to one egg per day does not increase the incidence of coronary artery disease or stroke. They are absolutely certain about this even though the data was gleaned from a cohort study that had to be adjusted for age, smoking and other risk factors. The fact that people in the study who had diabetes had two times the incidence of CAD and stroke is mentioned but given the disclaimer of needing further study (even though the p value was .04 in men and .008 in women.)

Then there is a multitude of other studies such as the one in 2013 suggested that egg consumption may be associated with an increased incidence of type 2 diabetes among the general population and CVD comorbidity among diabetic patients. Going back further, in 2008, for participants in the Physician Health Study, egg consumption did not seem to influence the risk of CVD in male physicians. But, egg consumption was positively related to mortality, more strongly so in diabetic subjects, in the study population.

What if you already have some signs of vascular disease? A study published 2012 in the medical journal "Atherosclerosis" found that egg yolk consumption appears to damage and thicken the arteries, almost to the same degree as smoking. The study looked at egg yolk consumption in about 1,200 people with a history of transient ischemic attacks (small strokes where symptoms disappear). It found that those who ate three or more yolks a week had significant amounts of plaque build-up compared with those who ate two or fewer yolks a week. Finally, around the same time, the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study reported that the daily consumption of the amount of cholesterol found in a single egg appeared to cut a woman’s life short as much as smoking 25,000 cigarettes.

So to summarize, egg yolks contain both cholesterol and saturated fats. Even the newest study that proposes eating an egg a day is safe showed that it is not if you have diabetes. And previous studies show an increase incidence of diabetes with egg consumption. Older studies suggest that eating whole eggs are not safe especially for those with prior cardiovascular disease. But if you want the real truth you should go to the American Egg Board’s Egg Nutrition Center’s website. There you can read about the Incredible Egg and peruse the blog that unscrambles the myths about eggs being bad for you. And you thought the Tobacco Industry had the market on sleaze. So in conclusion, eating a whole egg isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

Alan G. Wasserman, MD