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  • The Facts:Another study has emerged claiming that eggs are not as healthy as they are marketed to be.
  • Reflect On:With so much evidence showing whole food plant based diets being extremely healthy for the human body, and the consumption of animal products being the compete opposite, why do people believe animal products are required for optimal health?

Are eggs actually good for our health? Animal products are getting a bad rep as time goes on, for multiple reasons. Where I live (in Canada), the food guide recently took a dramatic shift to a more plant-based diet. Has the food industry simply used mass marketing to convince us that animal products are healthy to turn a profit? Have the big food companies compromised the science that’s put out by our federal health regulatory agencies? There is ample information that shows how the human body thrives under a whole foods, plant-based diet, and that animal products may actually be contributing to a variety of diseases that are currently on the rise today. Take the milk of a cow, for example. Milk from cows has been touted as making our bones stronger and preventing conditions like osteoporosis. As it turns out, it’s the complete opposite, milk causes bone degeneration by leeching calcium from the bone. You can read more about that here. Doctor T. Colin Campbell, author of the “China Study,” discovered that animal protein (casein) can accelerate and “turn on” cancer, while plant-based protein has the opposite effect. Here is an article from a doctor explaining why he believes humans have the biology that’s meant for strict herbivores, and here’s another explaining what happens to the body when you stop eating meat. Recent studies over the past few years have been giving vegetarianism as well as veganism more credibility in the eyes of mainstream science. As Harvard Medical School recognizes, “Studies are confirming the health benefits of meat-free eating. Nowadays, plant-based eating is recognized as not only nutritionally sufficient but also as a way to reduce the risk for many chronic illnesses.”  It’s not really a secret, and it’s not up for debate anymore, in my opinion.

So, what about eggs? I recently came across an Instagram post by Michelle McMacken, an Assistant Professor of Medicine at NYU School of Medicine and the Director of the Bellevue Hospital Weight Management Clinic, where she cited the most recent health study conducted regarding eggs.

In recent years, there has been a growing perception that eggs and dietary cholesterol aren’t as bad as we once thought. But a large new study calls this into question.

The study, published in one of the most prestigious medical journals, included 29,615 people followed for a median 17.5 years. The authors evaluated whether egg intake or dietary cholesterol was linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease or death from any cause.

Their findings? The more eggs or cholesterol that participants consumed, the higher their risk of CV disease or death from any cause; there was a clear dose-response.

Specifically: each additional half of an egg per day was associated with a 6% increased risk of CV disease and 8% increased risk of death over the course of the study. The risks were even more dramatic in women—13% higher risk of CV disease and 16% higher risk of death for each additional half an egg per day.
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Each additional 300mg of dietary cholesterol per day (1 egg=186mg cholesterol) was linked to a 17% increased risk of CV disease and an 18% increased risk of death from any cause (not to mention a 14% higher risk of heart failure and a 26% higher risk of stroke). Again, the risk was magnified in women (28% higher risk of death from any cause).

What about people eating an overall healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables?  Notably, even these participants experienced a significantly higher risk of CV disease when they had an extra half an egg or 300mg cholesterol per day.

Of course, correlation does not equal causation, but these findings include adjustment for many variables and potential confounders, including age, sex, race, education, smoking, and physical activity, and remained significant even after authors controlled for diabetes, body mass index, blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and other CV risk factors.

Bottom line: we have no biological requirement to consume cholesterol or eggs; indeed, this large study (among others) suggests that we are better off when we avoid them. Our bodies can make all the cholesterol we need, and we can get other nutrients found in eggs from healthier sources.

Reference: Zhong et al, JAMA 2019

This isn’t the only study that highlights concerns about eggs, it’s simply the most recent. For example, a study published in 2011 found that daily consumption of cholesterol appeared to cut a woman’s life as short as smoking 25 thousand cigarettes, or 5 cigarettes a day for 15 years would.

Following up on their research a year later, a study published in the Journal of Atherosclerosis Research found that regular egg consumption could put your health at grave risk. Canadian researchers examined 1,231 patients with an average age of 62. They used ultrasound measurements of the carotid arteries to establish the presence and quantity of atherosclerotic plaque. Smoking was measured in “pack-years” and egg yolk consumption in “egg yolk-years.” The researchers discovered that eating one egg per day was just as bad for your heart as smoking five cigarettes per day.

They found that substituting between 15g and 19g of animal protein, the equivalent of a single sausage, for legumes, pulses, nuts, and other plant protein significantly decreased the risk of early death. Replacing eggs with plant-based protein led to a 19% reduction in death risk.

According to Dr. T. Colin Campbell, known for his work on the “China Study:”

What I did during the early part of my career was nothing more than what traditional science would suggest. I made the observation that diets presumably higher in animal protein were associated with liver cancer in the Philippines. When coupled with the extraordinary report from India showing that casein fed to experimental rats at the usual levels of intake dramatically promoted liver cancer, it prompted my 27-year-long study, The China Project, of how this effect worked. We did dozens of experiments to see if this was true and, further, how it worked.

The list of research and health benefits goes on and on when it comes to whole foods, plant-based diets being superior to diets high in animal products.” — just to firmly establish the point you’re trying to make!

Below is an interview with Dr. McMacken that goes into a deeper discussion regarding the link between diet and disease.

The Takeaway

Not only do the health benefits point to the fact that giving up animal products, if done correctly, is an extremely health choice, but there are also environmental incentives and, perhaps most importantly, compassionate incentives. The way we treat animals on our planet is horrific, and so is the entire food industry in general.

Why do we have such a hard time letting go of old habits that no longer serve the collective? Why do we struggle to entertain new information and evidence that conflict with our own belief systems?

 

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