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Are Eggs Good For Us?

Eggs have quite a few controversies going on around them. As a cook, I love them for their versatility and their value in teaching my daughter about heat control. As a person interested in health and wellness, I see people eating egg whites and discarding the yolks, doctors limiting their patients to a couple of eggs a week while at the same time we have stories of the legendary Russi Modi who died at the ripe old age of 96 years, and was said to eat 16 egg omelettes each day. So what’s the deal?

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In 1968, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommended the consumption of less than 3 eggs a week, claiming that increased dietary cholesterol would result in increased blood cholesterol, which in turn increased the risk of cardiovascular disease. Their recommendation also included limiting dietary cholesterol to less than 300mg per day. More specifically, the AHA suggested that the consumption of egg yolks be restricted to 3 per week. Given two eggs a day covers 10-30% of our daily vitamin requirements, this was not good news.​1,2​

People have stopped eating eggs due to doctor and nutritionist recommendations.

The outcome of this, was that people began eating only the egg whites. Now the average egg white is about 30ml, of which 88% is water, with approximately 3.3gm (110mg/ml) of protein (over 150 types). Interestingly, egg whites contain a fair bit of B-vitamins (significant amounts of B2, B3, and B5 plus some B1, B6, B8, B9, and B12) in addition to an anti-bacterial agent.​1​

While most of us associate eggs with breakfast, they’re great at any time of the day.

The egg yolk on the other hand, apart from 5.3% unsaturated fat (MUFA+PUFA) and 2.6% saturated fat (SFA), and 15.9% protein, is also an excellent source of micro nutrients. In fact, it contains all the vitamins, except for Vitamin C – A, D, E, K, B1, B2, B5, B6, B9, and B12. Keep in mind though that vitamins A, D, E and K depend on the hen’s diet. Further, egg yolks are a great source of Choline (680mg/100gm in yolks versus 1mg/100gm in whites), a nutrient that most of us don’t really complete our daily requirement of. Choline deficiency is also implicated in Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD). The table below shows the vitamin contents of 100gm of eggs. Further the yolks also contain iron and zinc.​1,3​

NameEgg, Whole, RawEgg Yolk, RawEgg White, Raw
Vitamin A or Retinol1603710
Vitamin A precursor or Beta-carotene0880
Vitamin D or Cholecalciferol2.05.40
Vitamin E or Alpha-tocopherol105025800
Vitamin K or Phylloquinone0.30.70
Vitamin C000
Vitamin B1 or Thiamin401764
Vitamin B2 or Riboflavin457528439
Vitamin B3 or Niacin7524105
Vitamin B5 or Pantothenic acid15332990190
Vitamin B61703505
Vitamin B8 or Biotin16.5–53.8 227.2–49.4 25.7–7.9 2
Vitamin B9 or Folate471464
Vitamin B12 or Colabamin0.891.950.09

So, just eating the whites and discarding the yolks isn’t such a good idea. But wait. What’s the point of all those nutrients, if eggs cause heart disease?!

I hear you. The answer to that one is, they don’t.​1,2,4​

We haven’t been eating eggs as we should for 50 years!

Most experimental, clinical and epidemiological studies conducted have found no co-relation between heart diseases and dietary cholesterol from eggs. In stark contrast, eggs are being explored as sources of disease preventing bio-active compounds. By 2015, most health agencies worldwide dropped the 1968 AHA recommendation.​1,2,4​

Here’s the most interesting part. The most recent paper I’ve come across is from January 2021 (last month), which was a meta-analysis that studied data involving 1.4 million people. Their findings were that higher consumption of eggs, was not related to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, but rather was associated with a significantly reduced risk of coronary artery disease. ​4​

To conclude, I’d go ahead and eat a couple of eggs a day. Keep in mind though that some of us have hyper-responses to dietary cholesterol and in those cases (~15-25% of the population), the intake of eggs among other sources of dietary cholesterol has to be controlled.

References

  1. 1.
    Réhault-Godbert S, Guyot N, Nys Y. The Golden Egg: Nutritional Value, Bioactivities, and Emerging Benefits for Human Health. Nutrients. Published online March 22, 2019:684. doi:10.3390/nu11030684
  2. 2.
    McNamara D. The Fifty Year Rehabilitation of the Egg. Nutrients. Published online October 21, 2015:8716-8722. doi:10.3390/nu7105429
  3. 3.
    Sanders LM, Zeisel SH. Choline. Nutrition Today. Published online July 2007:181-186. doi:10.1097/01.nt.0000286155.55343.fa
  4. 4.
    Krittanawong C, Narasimhan B, Wang Z, et al. Association Between Egg Consumption and Risk of Cardiovascular Outcomes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. The American Journal of Medicine. Published online January 2021:76-83.e2. doi:10.1016/j.amjmed.2020.05.046

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