Considering February is Heart Health Month, we thought it would be very fitting to revisit a previously posted blog about the much maligned eggs.
Just when we think the topic of whole eggs versus egg whites is put to rest, it resurfaces. We disagree and believe egg yolks are great for you and should be included regularly in the diet.
Now, this didn’t exactly look at that topic, though a study came out saying eggs may be as bad for you as smoking!
Yet I opened my email recently and was asked again about a study suggesting regularly eating egg yolks is almost comparable to smoking cigarettes (in terms of their effect on atherosclerotic plaque build up).
What is this some kind of ‘yolk?!’ Yolk. Get it?
Right. I crack me up. OK, enough with the bad egg puns.
It was plastered all over the media “Egg yolks are almost as dangerous for smoking for atherosclerosis.” And in an instant, the uphill battle that’s been fought to overturn the “eggs are bad” silliness was again leaning towards eggs being “bad.”
So I thought maybe what I was seeing was just some writer trying to sensationalize things with the attention grabbing headline. Gave them the benefit of the doubt. Until I was able to see the entire, full length “study” — study in quotes because it’s junk science in our opinion …
… lo and behold, the study did in fact conclude that egg yolks are nearly comparable to cigarettes!
Let’s dissect this study to the core for you because we’ve of course have already seen this study reviewed on the news, on different websites, and in mainstream newspapers and it’s scaring consumers.
We have worked hard pushing for eggs to get the love they deserve. We eat them daily — mainly from “happy, bug eating, dirt scratching, sun loving, free roaming chickens” (as the farmer calls them where we get ours), but we also like Eggland’s Best if the farm isn’t an option.
Anyhow, the study.
The problem, unfortunately, is that this study has more holes in it than Swiss cheese. Basically the researchers did what’s called a correlation study, based on self report from the subjects, and showed that those who had a high intake of eggs had similar levels of atherosclerotic plaque to that of smokers.
What they didn’t do, however, is consider pretty much any other factor that also can play a role in plaque development.
To take a step back. Think of plaque like sludge in pipes. The more hardened sludge you have in your “pipes,” the harder your heart has to work to pump blood around your body because your blood is going through a smaller “tube.” Similarly, if a piece of that plaque breaks off, you can then set yourself up to have a stroke or heart attack. I’m no cardiologist, but neither are what I’d call “good situations.”
So basically this study is what’s called a correlation study – and correlation doesn’t mean causation — in other words, doing one thing (eating eggs in this case) doesn’t ’cause’ heart disease. This study simply examined the correlation between these two things. While correlation studies aren’t completely useless by any means, there are certainly better ways to study relationships and cause and effect.
One way is to control as much as possible — the confounding factors — to isolate the question that’s trying to be answered.
It’s really impossible to control for every factor. But with this study there were a ton of controllable factors, which all can play a role in atherosclerosis, that weren’t examined.
- Exercise wasn’t even a factor in this study.
- Saturated fat wasn’t examined.
- Sugar wasn’t.
- Fruit and vegetable intake weren’t.
- Overall calorie intake wasn’t.
- Fiber wasn’t either.
- In fact, no other dietary factor was examined as part of this equation (at least that they mentioned).
- And while we’re at it, no other lifestyle habits were either.
- How often people sit vs. stand & overall general activity and movement, even outside of just basic physical activity weren’t either.
Oh yeah, and we shouldn’t leave out that the study subjects were not healthy to begin with. The subjects are described in the study as “Our referrals were scheduled on an urgent basis soon after ischaemic attacks or stroke.” How can the comparison from unhealthy to healthy even be made? It can’t (or shouldn’t) have been!
And yet the conclusion was drawn for all people — healthy and otherwise — that egg yolks were almost as bad as smoking cigarettes. Now I understand it’s tough to control for so many factors, but if you’re trying to determine the effect of something on atherosclerotic plaque, which doesn’t have just one “cause” I suggest at least trying to control for a lot more than was done in this study (and using a variety of subjects, too)…
…then making a strong conclusion like “egg yolk consumption is almost as dangerous as smoking.”
The majority of the data suggests egg yolks are a great source of many, many nutrients. Unfortunately this study may swing that pendulum back and scare people away from these little golden nuggets of goodness; one of the best (and affordable) protein sources in the diet.
So, at the end of the day…again…WE say eat whole eggs and enjoy them!!!
Here’s a favorite egg recipe that takes 2 minutes to prep and cook.
Eggs in a Cup
Crack 2 eggs into a cup.
Add a pinch of salt and pepper (to taste)
Beat the egg until well mixed.
Put the cup in the microwave and microwave for 1-2 minutes, depending on the strength of your microwave.
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Here’s the reference if anyone is interested in the entire paper.
J. David Spence, David J.A. Jenkins, Jean Davignon. Egg yolk consumption and carotid plaque. Atherosclerosis, 2012