Eggs Good For Your Heart? Not Likely!
This week consumers are hearing the news that “an egg a day may reduce heart disease risk.” Cynics might ask does a cigarette a day reduce the risk of lung cancer too?
The truth is the chicken egg has the highest cholesterol of any other foodstuff—packing as much as 275 mg of cholesterol. In 2008, the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation reported that just one egg a day increased the risk of heart failure in a group of doctors studied. And in 2010, the Canadian Journal of Cardiology lamented the “wide- spread misconception . . . that consumption of dietary cholesterol and egg yolks is harmless.” The article further cautioned that “stopping the consumption of egg yolks after a stroke or myocardial infarction [heart attack] would be like quitting smoking after a diagnosis of lung cancer: a necessary action, but late.”
Eggs also have a link to ovarian cancer, says an article in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, and the culprit is not necessarily cholesterol. “It seems possible that eating eggs regularly is causally linked to the occurrence of a proportion of cancers of the ovary, perhaps as many as 40 percent, among women who eat at least 1 egg a week,” wrote the authors. In one study the article cites, three eggs per week increased ovarian-cancer mortality three-fold, compared with less than one egg per week.
Diabetes, cancer, and stroke are not the only health risks associated with eggs. This month, Walmart, Food Lion and other grocery chains have recalled more than 206 million eggs after a salmonella outbreak. Thirty-five people were sickened.
Thanks to “factory farming” 30,000 or more caged hens are now stacked on top of each other, over their own manure, to produce a cheap egg. The extreme, crowded conditions invite disease and egg recalls due to bacterial contamination have become a regular occurrence.
A few years ago, the FDA found a hatchery injecting antibiotics directly into the eggs that would become laying hens. The FDA observed that the antibiotic ceftiofur “was being administered by egg injection, rather than by the approved method of administering the drug to day-old chicks.” Would eggs from an antibiotic-treated hen have antibiotic residues? Of course. The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reports that “detectable residues were observed in eggs derived from enrofloxacin-treated [an antibiotic] hens,” as well as “yolks from hens treated with enrofloxacin.”
To offset the heart, cancer, diabetes and bacterial risks of eggs, the egg industry continually pushes them to the medical and consumer press with the message that they are healthful. In 2010, US egg farmers in conjunction with Scholastic rolled out the “Good Egg Project” in schools to increase egg demand—similar to dairy industry projects in schools to push milk. The “Back-to-Breakfast Teacher Challenge” gave teachers the chance to win $5,000 by explaining in an essay how the Good Egg Project grant “could be used to offer protein breakfasts in their schools.”
A blurb in Akin’s Healthy Edge magazine said, “In the past, eggs have been condemned as unhealthy because their yolks contain cholesterol. But studies from around the world show that the cholesterol found naturally in food isn’t actually harmful, according to research presented at the Experimental Biology 2011 conference in Washington, DC. ”
But consumers would be wise to listen to medical researchers not egg marketers. They do not have “yolk” in the game.
Martha Rosenberg is author of the award-cited food exposé “Born With a Junk Food Deficiency.” A nationally known muckraker, she has lectured at the university and medical school level and appeared on radio and television.