On CNN: An Egg-A-Day Does Not Increase Heart Disease or High Blood Pressure Risk (Breakthrough Study)
My clients regularly ask me, “Should I be eating eggs? My doctor tells me they’re ‘poison,’ and to avoid eggs because they’ll increase my cholesterol.”
My response? ”That’s OLD NEWS!” Read the updated scientific reports on eggs and find out why…
Most of the studies I’ve seen conclude that eggs are fine – and may even improve your health – as they contain nutrients difficult to find in other foods. Get more facts in my egg article (originally published in The Washington Post)… I also featured eggs in my most recent Washington Post article, “7 So-Called ‘Bad’ Foods That Are Actually Good For You.”
More importantly, a new report published in the British Journal of Medicine in January, which reviewed 17 different egg studies, concluded, “Higher consumption of eggs (up to one egg per day) is not associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease or stroke.” See the details…
The Study: British Medical Journal 2013; 346 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e8539 (Published 7 January 2013)
Study Conclusions: ”Higher consumption of eggs (up to one egg per day) is not associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease or stroke. The increased risk of coronary heart disease among diabetic patients and reduced risk of hemorrhagic stroke associated with higher egg consumption in subgroup analyses warrant further studies.”
Bottom Line: ”Your nutritional needs and food choices should be personalized. You should enjoy food and eating, as it is one of the basic pleasures in life!”
Interesting quotes from the study: “We considered several potential reasons for the lack of an overall association between egg consumption and coronary heart disease or stroke. Although dietary cholesterol influences plasma concentrations of serum cholesterol, the effects are relatively small.10 In addition, epidemiologic studies have found weak or little association between dietary cholesterol intake and cardiovascular disease risk.10Apart from dietary cholesterol, saturated fat and dietary patterns might also influence blood cholesterol levels,44 45 46 suggesting that compliance with general dietary recommendations instead of simply reducing egg consumption could have a greater effect on the risk of cardiovascular disease. Additionally, individual differences in response to dietary cholesterol vary greatly, which could affect the association between egg consumption and risk of coronary heart disease and stroke. Moreover, several studies have shown that egg consumption favors the formation of larger LDL and HDL particles, which might enhance protection against atherosclerosis.47 48
“The associations between egg consumption and risk of coronary heart disease and stroke were similar in subgroup analyses, which were defined by sex, study location, number of cases or participants, duration of follow-up, repeated egg consumption measurements, study quality, and whether diet variables or cholesterol levels were controlled for in models. An increment of one egg consumed per day did not significantly increase risk of coronary heart disease or stroke in any of the categories.”
“However, among diabetic participants, higher egg consumption was associated with a significantly elevated risk of coronary heart disease. On the other hand, higher egg intake was associated with a lower risk of hemorrhagic stroke. These subgroup results should be interpreted with caution, because only a few studies focused on diabetic participants and particular stroke subtypes.”
Other than cholesterol, eggs are a good source of other nutrients such as high quality protein and vitamin D. In the Diet, Obesity, and Gene (Diogenes) Project, increased protein consumption together with a modest reduction in glycemic index was beneficial for weight control.49 Substituting protein for carbohydrate also partly resulted in lower blood pressure, improved lipids levels, and concomitantly reduced cardiovascular risk.50 Higher vitamin D intake might have beneficial effects on the reduction of visceral adipose tissue51 and other cardiovascular risk factors52.”
Another possibility is that lifestyle factors associated with egg consumption might have obscured a positive association between egg consumption and risk of coronary heart disease and stroke. However, regular egg consumption tends to be associated with unhealthy lifestyle factors such as smoking and physical inactivity.34 36 53Higher consumption of eggs is also likely to be associated with increased consumption of red and processed meats.36 These confounding factors tend to exaggerate rather than mask the association between egg consumption and cardiovascular disease risk. One study found that participants with high levels of cholesterol in the blood were more likely to reduce their egg consumption than others.40 However, our subgroup analysis showed that the association between egg consumption and coronary heart disease was similar in the models, with or without adjustment for cholesterol levels.
Recently, a cross sectional study assessed the total plaque area in patients attending Canadian vascular prevention clinics to determine whether the atherosclerosis burden was related to dietary egg intake.54 The study found a strong positive association between the number of egg yolks and the degree of atherosclerosis measured by plaque areas. However, the study did not assess or adjust for other dietary or lifestyle factors and did not examine hard cardiovascular disease endpoints. The cross sectional nature of the study also limited causal interpretation of the data. Therefore, the results from this cross sectional analysis should be interpreted with caution.55 The findings from our meta-analyses of prospective cohort studies do not support a positive association between egg consumption and cardiovascular disease outcomes in the general population.
Subgroup analyses have suggested a positive association between egg consumption and coronary heart disease risk in diabetic patients. Among diabetic populations, decreased plasma levels of apolipoprotein E, together with increased levels of apolipoprotein C-III could lead to abnormal cholesterol transport, which might increase the risk of coronary heart disease.56 57 The adverse effect of egg consumption on lipoprotein profile and glycemic control could contribute to the elevated risk of coronary heart disease in diabetic populations.
Authors: Ying Rong, doctoral student, Li Chen, research fellow, Tingting Zhu, research fellow, Yadong Song, research fellow, Miao Yu, research fellow, Zhilei Shan, research fellow, Amanda Sands, doctoral student, Frank B Hu, professor, Liegang Liu, professor
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Are you shying away from bad foods that are actually good for you? With all the hoopla about healthful eating, it’s hard to separate fact from fiction.
As a nutrition consultant, I’ve come to realize there is no shortage of surprises and superstitions in the world of nutrition. As a follow-up to my recent Washington Post article, “5 So-Called Health Foods You Should Avoid,” I thought it would be fun to give you reasons to enjoy some of your favorite so-called “bad” foods that could actually be good for you, originally published in The Washington Post…
Gluten and Wheat
They are “the most demonized ingredients beyond high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oil,” said Melissa Abbott, culinary director at the Hartman Group, a company specializing in consumer research.
Yet decades of studies have found that gluten-containing foods, such as whole wheat, rye and barley, are vital for good health, and are associated with a reduced risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and excess weight.
“Wheat is a good source of fiber, vitamins and minerals,” said Joanne Slavin, nutrition professor at the University of Minnesota. She added that the confusion about gluten, a protein, has caused some people to avoid eating wheat and other grains.
Only about 1 percent of the population - those with celiac disease or wheat allergy – cannot tolerate gluten and must eradicate it from their diet to ease abdominal pain and other symptoms, including the ability to fully absorb vitamins.
One reason wheat-free or gluten-free diets are popular is that people who don’t eat wheat often end up bypassing excess calories in sweets and snack foods. Then they start feeling better, lose weight, and mistakenly attribute their success to gluten or wheat avoidance. Learn more about a gluten free diet and who may benefit from it…
Eggs also don’t deserve their bad reputation. In recent decades, their high cholesterol content has been thought to play a role in increasing LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and heart disease risk. But cholesterol in food is a minor factor contributing to high blood cholesterol for most people, and studies have not confirmed a correlation between eggs and increased heart disease risk. The major determinant of LDL (bad) cholesterol is saturated fat, and while eggs are high in cholesterol – 184 milligrams in the yolk – they’re relatively low in saturated fat – about 1.6 grams in the yolk.
Interestingly, some of the biggest egg eaters in the world, the Japanese, have low cholesterol and heart disease rates, in part because they eat a diet low in saturated fat. In contrast, Americans eat eggs alongside sausage, bacon, and buttered toast.
“The amount that one egg a day raises cholesterol in the blood is extremely small,” says Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard’s School of Public Health. “Elevations in LDL (bad) cholesterol of this small magnitude could easily be countered by other healthy aspects of eggs.” Learn more about eggs…
Potatoes have been blamed for increasing blood glucose levels, insulin resistance, excess weight and Type 2 diabetes. A recent Harvard study that followed large populations and their disease rates linked potato eating with being overweight, blaming it on the blood glucose rise.
But many foods, including whole-wheat bread and whole-grain cereals, cause similar spikes in blood glucose, and are correlated with superior health and lower body weights. How could the higher body weight in the Harvard study be explained? The study lumped all potato products together, including potato chips and french fries, very fattening versions of potatoes usually eaten in large portions alongside hamburgers, hot dogs, and sodas.
“It’s an easy food to attack; but the meal pattern may be the culprit,” said David Baer, a research leader at the Agricultural Research Service of the Department of Agriculture. “Other epidemiological studies have not verified a connection between potatoes and weight gain or any diseases, and no clinical studies have shown a connection.” Learn more about the Harvard study…
Potatoes are a great source of potassium, Vitamin C and fiber that many cultures – Scandinavians, Russians, Irish, and Peruvians – relied on as a nutritious staple for centuries. And they were not fat.
People often ask me if fruit is too high in sugar, especially for diabetics. This fear of fruit, I believe, is left over from the Atkins craze, which discouraged eating some fruits on the grounds that they are high in carbohydrates.
Avoiding fruit could actually damage your health. Study after study over many decades shows that eating fruit can reduce the risk of some cancers, heart disease, blood pressure and fruit. Lean how fruit reduces diabetes risk…
Fruit is high in water and fiber, which help you feel full with fewer calories, one reason why eating it is correlated with lower body weight. Even though they contain simple sugars, most fruits have a relatively low glycemic index. That is, when you eat fruit, your blood sugar raises only moderately, especially when compared with refined sugar or flour products.
Several health organizations, including the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, the National Cancer Institute, and the American Heart Association, recommend Americans eat at least five cups of fruits and vegetables a day because of their superior health benefits.
Though popular for centuries in many Asian cuisines, soy is sometimes seen as dangerous after studies found elevated rates of breast cancer among rats when they were fed a concentrated soy derivative. But studies looking at whole soy foods in humans have not found a connection. In fact, the reverse may be true.
Soy, “when consumed in childhood or adolescence may make breast tissue less vulnerable to cancer development later in life and probably has no effect on breast cancer risk when consumption begins in adulthood,” said Karen Collins, registered dietitian and nutrition adviser with the American Institute for Cancer Research.
Actually, Collins said, the evidence is so strong for protection against heart disease that the FDA allowed a health claim for labels on soy food products.
Alcohol is feared because of the potential for abuse and alcoholism and complications such as liver disease, which are valid concerns.
But decades’ worth of research shows that moderate alcohol consumption “can reduce deaths from most causes, particularly heart disease, and it raises HDL (good) cholesterol,” the USDA’s David Baer said.
Wine may have additional benefits because its grapes are filled with nutrients called polyphenols, which reduce blood-clotting, inflammation and oxidation.
The key is to drink alcohol moderately and with meals. What’s moderation? One serving daily for women and two servings for men, with a serving being 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer or 1.5 ounces of spirits. Learn more about wine…
While it’s true that frying food usually increases its caloric content, that doesn’t necessarily make it unhealthful.
As long as food is fried in healthful oil instead of butter, shortening, or trans fat, and it’s eaten in moderation, it isn’t less healthy. In fact, fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, and heart-healthy, cancer-preventive carotenoids such as beta-carotene (e.g., carrots, sweet potatoes), lycopene (e.g., tomatoes) and lutein/zeaxanthin (deep-green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale), need fat in order to be absorbed by the body.
“The consumption of certain fats, such as saturated fatty acids and trans fatty acids [fats that are solid at room temperature],is associated with an . . . increased risk of cardiovascular disease. On the other hand, the unsaturated fats, monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids [canola, safflower and olive oils] have significant metabolic benefits and are health promoting,” said the 2010 U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. Learn more about healthy fats…
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Eggs Scrambled with Onion, Garlic, Kale and Sweet Cherry Tomatoes
This is a regular meal for me any time of the day – quick, easy, delicious, nutritious!
Saute 1/4 sweet onion and a smashed garlic clove over medium high heat in 1 teaspoon canola or olive oil until almost soft. Add a handful of chopped kale and tomatoes to the pan (or any other vegetables you happen to have such as chopped spinach, kale, mushrooms, or peppers) and cook for another 5 minutes. Turn down heat to very low. In a separate bowl, whisk 2 eggs. Pour eggs into the pan containing the onion, garlic and tomato – add 1 ounce low fat cheese, if you wish. Stir continuously until eggs are cooked. Pour over toasted whole rye bread.
Deep Green Leafy Vegetables have the highest antioxidant content of all vegetables. High in fiber, they are rich in minerals, B-vitamins, beta-carotene, and lutein, a compound which may help reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration (the leading cause of preventable blindness). Absorption of carotenoids, such as lutein, in your body is increased by cooking and by the presence of fat (so cook in a little healthy olive or canola oil!)
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Published in “The Washington Post” February 28, broadcast on WOR Radio New York City…
Eating healthy can be harder than you think, thanks to an enterprising food industry that wants us to consume more than we need. That’s because our country’s agricultural system produces twice what most people require – 3,900 calories per person per day, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service. This encourages creative marketing to unload the excess, much of it made with cheap ingredients, having long shelf-lives, and minimal nutritional value – the kinds of “food” with the highest profit margins.
As a nutrition consultant, I know that words such as “low fat,” “high fiber,” “multigrain,” gluten free,” and “natural” can confuse even the most sophisticated customers into believing what they’re buying is healthful. In fact, market research proves it.
What can you do? First, make a habit of reading the ingredients list, not just the Nutrition Facts panel. And remember the following products worth resisting…
Reduced-fat peanut butter
The oil is the healthiest part of a peanut* or a tree nut, containing most of the nutrients, so there’s no advantage to taking it out. In fact, it’s worse because it robs the peanut butter of its health benefits. “Reduced-fat peanut butter has as many calories and more sugar than the regular,” says Bonnie Liebman, nutrition director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Instead: Buy regular peanut butter. Eating one or two ounces of nuts daily is associated with reductions in heart disease and cancer risk. A recent Harvard study showed that eating nuts is associated with lower body weights.
Sports drinks, diluted soft drinks with salt, are only needed during intense exercise exceeding one hour or in extreme heat. Drinks such as Vitaminwater (c) are essentially sugary drinks with a vitamin pill. They are “unequivocally harmful to health,” says Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard’s School of Public Health. “Whether vitamins dissolved in water have any benefit will depend on who you are and whether you are already getting enough. . . . Some people may be getting too much of some vitamins and minerals if they add vitamin water on top of fortified foods and other supplements.” A recent Iowa Women’s Health Study found an association between certain commonly used vitamin and mineral supplements and increased death rates. But the worst offenders in this category are energy drinks such as Red Bull, Sobe Life Water, or Monster Drinks. They’re not only high in sugar, but most contain stimulants which may be harmful, especially with medical conditions like high blood pressure.
Instead: Drink water, ideally from the tap (“Eau du Potomac,” as it’s known locally). It’s the best drink for hydrating your body, is naturally calorie-free and contains fluoride to prevent tooth decay. No supplement matches the nutrients in whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains.
The reputation of these bars, also known as meal replacement bars, is that they are healthy, aid in weight loss or help build muscle. In fact, they are calorie bombs: candy bars with vitamins, protein or fiber added. For most of them, sugar is either the first (predominant) or second ingredient.
Instead: Snack on fruit or veggies for weight loss and yogurt for muscle gain. If you’re hiking a long distance and want a healthful, nonperishable calorie bomb, try nuts and dried fruit.
Multigrain breads, crackers and cereals are often the most confusing foods. People see “multigrain” and think “whole grain.” That’s not necessarily so. This is an important distinction because people who eat whole grains have a lower incidence of diabetes, heart disease and cancers, and are less likely to be overweight compared with those who eat refined grains. Note that when “enriched wheat flour” is listed in the ingredients, that’s refined flour.
Instead: Be sure a whole grain, such as whole wheat, whole rye, whole oats or brown rice, is the first and preferably the only grain in the ingredient list. A great example is a cereal listing whole rolled oats as the only grain or a bread listing whole wheat as the only wheat. Alternatively, consider an egg for breakfast. “The huge amounts of refined starch and sugar that many people eat for breakfast, often thinking that this is the healthy choice, does far more damage to their well-being than an egg,” says Harvard’s Willett.
Non-fried chips and crackers
It’s easy to believe these foods are healthful because of labels such as “baked,” “low fat” or “gluten free.” But most are made with refined grain or starch, which provide plenty of calories and few nutrients. Popchips, for example, are a new product marketed as healthful. But the ingredients are highly refined potato flakes, starch, oil, salt and about 14 additional things. Pita chips, made with white flour, oil, salt and several more ingredients, are no better. To boot, research shows that too much refined grains and starches increases the risk for heart disease, cancers, diabetes and weight gain.
Instead: Try Wasa or Finn Crisp Original Rye crackers. They’re 100 percent whole grain and have little sodium. If you’d like a chip, try Terra Chips, made with sliced vegetables, or even a 100 percent whole grain chip fried in a healthy oil, such as olive or canola. Tortilla chips and SunChips are two examples. “Now that trans fats have been removed from most cooking oils, the healthiest part of potato chips is the fat,” Willett says. “And chips made of whole grains rather than potatoes, like Frito-Lay’s SunChips, can legitimately be considered a health food,” so long as you keep to the one-ounce serving size.
*Peanuts are technically a legume, but we call them nuts nutritionally because their nutritional characteristics and health benefits closely match those of tree nuts.
Find this article originally printed in The Washington Post February 28, 2012
Listen to me discuss “Health Foods You Should Avoid” on WOR 710 Talk Radio NYC ”The Joan Hamburg Show”