Are eggs good or bad, or even evil, is a question that has utterly confused nutritional scientists for decades; one week they are in, the next out.
So what does the latest research have to say? Are eggs good or bad?
And what is a "proper egg?" Can you spot which one of those below stands out in the crowd?
This page was last updated on 9th January, 2023.
The white is the non-controversial part when trying to answer the question are eggs good or bad; universally scientists agree that it is an excellent food, containing all nine of the essential amino acids.
In that sense it is a complete protein and in theory one could survive with no other sources of amino-acids.
Of course in the natural state, all eggs would be fertilized; the function of the white is to provide protein for the growing embryo that is the yolk.
It is in fact mostly water in which these amino acids are dissolved; the white contains nearly two-thirds of the total protein in the egg.
It contains about 3.6 g of protein. A child requires roughly about 30g per day, and an adult 50 grams.
So an egg-white alone contains about one tenth of our daily protein needs.
And a whole egg would provide about one-fifth.
The yolk is the controversial part when investigating whether eggs are good or bad; it is where the fat is found and a large part is cholesterol.
Previously when too much dietary cholesterol was thought to be the cause of heart disease, Medicine recommended we eat few or no eggs.
Now the heart foundation recommends an egg a day. Why is that? The cholesterol from your food has little influence on the circulating lipoproteins in the blood in the vast majority of people. Most of it is synthesized in the liver regardless of the fat you consume.
While intense debate continues in attempting to answer the question whether eggs are good or bad, it is now considered that refined carbohydrate is the chief cause of heart disease; by raising blood glucose and causing obesity. That in turn inflames the arteries and affects circulation.
The yolk contains the fertilized embryo supplying the vitamins, minerals all the fat in the egg; and about a third of the protein.
Of particular interest to the DC is the fact that half the fat in the egg yolk is oleic acid; that which forms the myelin sheath around a nerve, without which it cannot conduct impulses.
You may have heard of de-myelinating diseases like multiple sclerosis; loss of that fatty sheath.
So far there is no controversy; all is good. However nearly a third of the fat in the egg yolk is saturated; that is what has bedeviled scientists for decades. Previously it was thought to cause heart disease.
As an aside the yellow colour in the yolk comes from two very important phytochemicals for the eyes; lutein and zeaxanthin. Eggs and yellow maize are the two richest sources, more even than dark-green leafy vegetables like kale.
The egg yolk is also one of the few sources of vitamin B12; a deficiency causes a terminal disease called pernicious anemia. It is undeniably important for our well-being.
Whilst raised blood LDL certainly does contribute to plaque that lines and may narrow our arteries, researchers now conclude that the saturated fats which we eat in butter and eggs, for example, have little influence on the circulating cholesterol.
So whilst eggs were frowned upon for decades, not good but thoroughly bad, now they are back, and in fact recommended. They should never have been sent to Coventry in the first place.
Butter is back and so are eggs.
It is the inflammatory substances in the blood that in the first instance damage the lining of arteries; thereafter the plaque is laid down and may rupture forming a clot. Raised blood sugar and the pernicious chemicals in cigarette smoke are the chief villains of the peace, not cholesterol.
In this very large study in 21 countries, after excluding those with a history of cardiovascular disease, researchers found that an intake of more than 7 eggs per week, as compared to less than one, was not associated with a higher blood fat score, CVD deaths or total mortality.
Please note that this finding specifically excludes those with a history of CVD.
Researchers commenting in the Diabetes and Egg study found that those with insulin resistance or T2D, on a healthy diet, who consumed more than 12 per week, as compared to one or less had no differences in plasma glucose, HbA1c or serum lipids; or inflammation markers.
They were comparing two groups of diabetics on a sensible weight loss program; there were no adverse effects from the high egg consumption after a 12 month followup and no difference in pounds lost.
Once again it is to be emphasized that both groups were on a well-balanced weight loss programme high in olive oil and avocados. This cannot and should not be extrapolated to those eating junk food.
Are eggs good or bad is a question that at least in part has been finally answered; it depends on what else you eating. Provided you enjoy them with plenty of vegetables, using what is known as "cholesterol credits" one need have absolutely no fear or guilt.
New research published on the JAMA network1, associations of dietary cholesterol or egg consumption with incident cardiovascular disease and mortality, found that there was a very small 3.5% increased risk.
But what's really interesting is this statement by the authors:
the associations between dietary cholesterol consumption and incident
CVD were no
longer significant after adjusting for consumption of red meat, whether processed or not.
In short you can have your egg and eat it provided you don't also have rashers of bacon and sausage too.
And in another 2019 study, just to add more confusion, researchers reporting in the journal Circulation, after following 400 000 people for 13 years concluded that the risk for ischemic heart disease was positively associated with consumption of red and processed meat; and inversely with consumption of yogurt, cheese, and eggs.2
An inverse relationship means that the more yogurt, cheese and eggs you eat, the less likelihood you are of having heart disease.
Again it's the red meat eaten with them that is the problem, not the eggs per se.
So even scientists are not totally sure whether eggs are good or bad. The weight of evidence suggests that as part of a wholesome meal they come highly recommended.
So fried eggs on white toast with rashers of bacon and sausage, and a pancake with strawberry jam on the side would be a problem.
So too cakes are a cause for concern; are eggs good or bad, or is it the refined flour?
Enjoyed as eggs Florentine on wholewheat toast you need have no concerns is our understanding.
I do not like making Eggs Benedict for two reasons. Firstly the bacon is smoked red meat which has definitely been strongly linked by WHO scientists with nasty tumours.
And secondly it is a lot of schlepp compared to Eggs Hilton. Just making the Hollandaise sauce is laborious.
A couple of rashers of bacon with your Eggs Florentine on high and holy days is probably okay. Let us not get too neurotic.
Proper eggs are those which are both fertilised and free-range; in effect those that would come from a hen in the wild.
There is simply a vast difference when comparing free range eggs and with those from a hen that has spent its whole life in a tiny wire cage.
Despite the rumours to date I can find no research showing that there are sound reasons for paying more for fertilised eggs; I suspect it's not an urban myth but have no grounds for claiming it.
I can assure you that a fresh egg from this little hen tastes quite different to that from a commercial farm; the rooster is about somewhere, probably looking out for raptors or paying attention to one of the other ladies!
6. Fruits and vegetables that are sources for lutein and zeaxanthin: the macular pigment in human eyes. Web: https://bjo.bmj.com/content/82/8/907
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