The Egg Controversy

Health benefits of eggs

Eggs are an excellent food choice; they are a natural source of nutrients such as B vitamins (B2, B12, folic acid and choline), as well as fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K and the mineral selenium. Eggs are also a good source of carotenoids (lutein and zeaxanthin) which protect against age-related macular degeneration and cataracts, and omega 3 fortified eggs may be beneficial for people with hypertriglyceridemia and those who avoid fish. Eggs are also a substantial source of choline, which is a substrate for acetylcholine synthesis, a neurotransmitter involved in memory, cognition and muscle function (as well as many other things). Eggs also provide high-quality, bioavailable protein with little total fat.

Current guidelines on egg consumption

Guidelines regarding egg consumption are confusing and rather fluid. The main reason eggs have received such bad press in the past is related to their cholesterol content – 1 egg yolk contains approximately 200mg of cholesterol (recommended daily guidelines are for less than 300mg a day). 

How many eggs are safe?

Technically, you could exceed your daily cholesterol intake just by eating 2 eggs. However, cholesterol from the diet is not particularly well absorbed, as various dietary factors, such as soluble fibre, inhibit its absorption.

However, our livers produce cholesterol (e.g. from saturated fats, trans fats and excess refined carbohydrates) and it is this synthesis of cholesterol in the body that has a much greater effect on our blood cholesterol levels than dietary consumption or  other factors, such as diabetes, obesity, etc.

Egg consumption guidelines

  1. The British Heart Foundation & Diabetes UK have amended their guidelines and currently there is no limit to dietary cholesterol or egg consumption
  2. The Australian National Heart Foundation recommend that those suffering with type 2 diabetes should restrict their egg consumption to 6 or fewer eggs per week
  3. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) have also amended their guidelines. Previously, the ADA recommended a maximum total cholesterol consumption for both the general population and those with type 2 diabetes of 300mg per day. However, current recommendations do not limit dietary cholesterol intake
  4. The American Heart Foundation & the American College of Cardiology have abolished their dietary cholesterol restrictions

A 2018 study in China (half a million participants over 4 years) found that individuals consuming 1 egg daily had significantly lower risk of cardiovascular disease, and a 26% lower risk of haemorrhagic stroke.

Hence research shows that consuming 1 – 2 eggs per day as part of a healthy diet, does not adversely affect blood cholesterol levels.   

Therefore, the message is that eggs are safe to eat as a part of a balanced and varied diet. Naturally, frying eggs will add to their fat and calorie content, so try to eat your eggs poached or boiled (e.g. in a salad) for a healthy balanced meal that will also help you keep fuller for longer and reduce the need for snacking. See Jamie Oliver’s recipe how to use  boiled eggs in a salad here.

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