A study published in the April 2008 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition(1) suggests an association between high egg consumption and all-cause mortality and the response from the American Egg Board is below.
The researchers, Djoussé and Gaziano, analyzed data from the Physicians Health Study I which followed male physicians over a 20 year period. As an epidemiological study, it does not show cause-and-effect and has other inherent weaknesses, the Egg Board response says.
The researchers did not control for a variety of factors including intake of other foods and nutrients including saturated fat. In addition, the high egg consumers exhibited other lifestyle and dietary patterns associated with increased health risks.
In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Robert Eckel, co-chair of the Committee on Cardiovascular and Metabolic Diseases, comments that “The study suffers from the lack of detailed dietary information that may confound the interpretation, such as patterns of dietary intake of saturated fat and trans fats.”(2) This is a significant point, given that some people who eat eggs often consume them with foods high in saturated fat.
In addition, the researchers do not comment on the level of diabetes control of the subjects. Poor diabetic control is associated with an increased risk of a number of chronic diseases that also effect mortality. Moreover, it is difficult to generalize these findings to the general population because the sample was based entirely on male physicians who may behave differently than the general population.
The most credible point in the study is that the researchers demonstrated there is no relationship between egg consumption and cardiovascular disease risk. This is consistent with a comprehensive body of research from the past 30 years which overwhelmingly shows that healthy adults can enjoy eggs without significantly impacting their risk of heart disease.(3)
The American Heart Association agrees that eggs can fit within heart-healthy guidelines when cholesterol from other sources is limited. Also, egg consumption does not significantly impact the LDL:HDL ratio – one of the best known and scientifically established indicators of heart disease risk.
Healthy adults should continue to enjoy eggs to increase their intake of a number of beneficial nutrients. One egg, including the yolk, has 13 essential vitamins and minerals, high-quality protein, healthy unsaturated fats and antioxidants, for only 70 calories.
(1) Djoussé L and Gaziano JM. Egg consumption in relation to cardiovascular disease and mortality: the Physicians’ Health Study. AJCN. 2008; 87;964-9.
(2) Eckel R. Egg consumption in relation to cardiovascular disease and mortality: the story gets more complex. AJCN. 2008; 87:799-800.
(3) Lee A and Griffin B. Dietary cholesterol, eggs and coronary heart disease risk in perspective. Nutrition Bulletin (British Nutrition Foundation). 2006; 31:21-27.