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Eating Eggs and Life Expectancy

Are Eggs Good or Bad?

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Updated May 08, 2008

Eggs have to be one of the most confusing foods out there. Eggs were first healthy, a good source of protein. Then we discovered that eggs had cholesterol and every one thought eggs would give you a heart attack. Then it was discovered that the cholesterol in eggs was “neutral” and we could eat a few eggs a day. Eggs were good for you again. Well, now it seems that having 7 or more eggs a week increases your risk of death. What is the story here?

Eggs are Bad (Again)

A Harvard study of over 21,000 male physicians found that men who ate up to 6 eggs a week had no increase in their rate of death. But once they ate a seventh egg, their risk of death went up 23%. The men were studied over a 20-year period and routinely surveyed about their health status and eating habits. During that period, 1,550 had heart attacks, 1,342 had strokes and 5,000 died.

To make matters more confusing, if the men had diabetes and ate any eggs, then their risk of death over the 20-year period was doubled.

Why Are Eggs Bad?

The cholesterol in eggs is the most obvious culprit. This cholesterol can clog arteries and contribute to heart attacks and strokes. Interestingly, in the study, the eating of eggs was only linked to the men who died, not to the men who had heart attacks or strokes. Clearly we don’t have the whole picture here.

So If I Don’t Eat Eggs, I’ll Be Better Off?

Not really. This study (and most nutritional studies) was not able to really sort out the full differences between men who ate no eggs, 6 or fewer eggs or eggs every day. The researchers did say that the lots-of-egg eating men were also more likely to be smokers, eat more vegetables, drink more and exercise less.

Play Armchair Epidemiologist

When you think about it, what is different about men who eat eggs every day compared to men who don’t? We could make up a lot of theories here. They are not eating oatmeal as much (because they are having eggs for breakfast); they are more likely to eat toast with lots of butter? How about bacon -– that goes with eggs a lot. The study didn’t address these kinds of links. You can come up with your own reason that men who eat lots of eggs would be less healthy -– a lot is left out of this picture.

Source:

Luc Djoussé and J Michael Gaziano. Egg consumption in relation to cardiovascular disease and mortality: the Physicians' Health Study. Am. J. Clinical Nutrition, Apr 2008; 87: 964 - 969.

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