The Good, the Bad and the Eggly - Smashing the Myth that Eggs Are a Health Food

For years eggs have been considered essential - but there are many superior vegan protein alternatives
Why do people still think eggs are good for them? Image: Tookapic

How did people ever even figure out that eggs were edible? Did they see something come out of a chicken and think, 'Boy, I bet that would be tasty?’ There had to be a first person who ever ate an egg. I am sure it was not pleasant.” – Ellen DeGeneres 

For years eggs have been touted as a health food - mainly due to the high protein content. But even outside the plant-based health movement, controversy has raged over the whether eggs are healthy or not, with various food experts and nutritional bodies arguing both for and against the consumption of this animal product.

But when you strip it down to the science - are eggs really a health food? And should humans eat them?

There is a huge amount of scientific evidence that suggests consuming eggs can cause myriad health issues. 

Aside from the myth that they are the most highly bioavailable source of protein, many people believe we need eggs to sustain adequate amounts of biotin and choline. 

Choline is a vitamin that aids digestion and absorption. It is abundant in foods such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, chickpeas, flaxseeds, garlic, grapes, green leafy vegetables, legumes, lentils, onions, pistachio nuts, sprouts and ripe tomatoes. The choline derived from eggs is metabolized by bacteria in the gut into trimethylamine (TMA) and further processed into trimethylamine oxide (TMAO) in the liver – which is known today as a leading contributor to atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, and peripheral artery disease. This could be a result of the high saturated fat content and dietary cholesterol in eggs binding to choline. 

Egg whites contain avidin, which is a biotin-binding amine produced in the oviducts of birds. This protein inhibits our ability to absorb biotin – an important B vitamin. The whites of eggs are also rich in trypsin inhibitors, which reduce the bioavailability of egg protein. Releasing the trypsin inhibitors requires the egg whites to be cooked, and when applied to heat the proteins are denatured – damaging the amino acids, and forming heterocyclic amines. These heterocyclic compounds are linked to various cancers and degenerative disease.

Eggs are acid-forming in the body, and by eating them we form excess mucus and plaque in the arteries, leading to a number of health risks.

In addition to creating acidosis, the concentrated proteins, saturated fat, and dietary cholesterol lurking in eggs clogs our lymphatic system, intestines, and colon. The denatured proteins in cooked eggs bind to sialic acid sugars (Neu5Gc), and lead to the formation of advanced glycation end-products (AGEs). These glycated proteins or lipids are known to shorten telomeres and accelerate ageing. 

In the June 2010 Journal of the American Dietetic Association, a published study – Advanced Glycation End Products in Foods and a Practical Guide to Their Reduction in the Diet – documents animal-derived foods high in fat and protein as being generally AGE-rich. A February 2014 Korean Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology study, Advanced Glycation End Products and Diabetic Complications, highlights the link between AGEs and incidence of diabetes. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a meta-analysis review in January 2016 – Egg Consumption and Risk of Type II Diabetes: A Meta-Analysis of Prospective Studies. In the publication, researchers analyzed 12 cohort studies including over 200,000 participants to search for possible association of egg consumption and risk for type II diabetes. 

Their findings displayed evidence of those consuming the most eggs experiencing a 39 per cent higher risk for diabetes. The heavy load on the pancreas from the high fat and cholesterol content, harmful proteins, and AGEs is likely to blame for the increased prevalence of this disease among humans who ingest eggs. 

Dr. Neal Barnard, a leading plant-based doctor and President of the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine, said: "Since one egg has the same amount of cholesterol as a Big Mac, it is unnecessary – even detrimental to your health – to consume eggs or egg products. One egg has more cholesterol than your body needs. In fact, any added dietary cholesterol is unnecessary because our bodies already produce more than the amount we require.” 

Dr. Neal Barnard, President of the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine recommends against egg consumption

In the July 2015 Atherosclerosis journal, a study – Egg Consumption and Coronary Artery Calcification In Asymptomatic Men and Women – linked egg consumption with an increased risk for developing heart disease. Researchers monitored the diets of 23,417 South Koreans participating in the Kangbuk Samsung Health Study, finding heart disease risk increased incrementally with egg intake. Those who ate the most eggs had 80 per cent higher coronary artery calcium scores – a measure of heart disease risk. 

In an October 2015 study published in StrokeAssociation of Dietary Protein Consumption With Incident Silent Cerebral Infarcts and Stroke: The ARIC Study – researchers followed the diets of 11,601 participants from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study and monitored protein sources and stroke incidence rates. Their findings indicate those who consumed the most eggs had a 41 per cent increased risk for hemorrhagic stroke. 

In an April 2013 meta-analysis published in AtherosclerosisEgg Consumption and Risk Of Cardiovascular Diseases and Diabetes: A Meta-Analysis – researchers screened 14 studies, finding those who consumed the most eggs had a 19 per cent increased risk for developing cardiovascular disease and 68 per cent increased risk for diabetes. Study subjects who were previously diagnosed with diabetes increased their risk for developing heart disease by 83 per cent after eating eggs. 

According to leading plant-based physician and author Dr Michael Greger: “Of all the cancers, egg consumption was most tightly correlated with breast cancer risk. Those eating more than a half an egg a day were found to have nearly three times the odds of breast cancer compared to those that stayed away from eggs entirely.” 

In addition to breast cancer, eating eggs also leads to the formation of prostate cancer. In a study published in the December 2011 Cancer Prevention Research journal – Egg, Red Meat, and Poultry Intake and Risk of Lethal Prostate Cancer in the Prostate Specific Antigen-Era: Incidence and Survival – results found men who consumed 2.5 or more eggs per week had an 81 per cent increased risk of developing lethal prostate cancer, compared with men who consumed less than 0.5 eggs per week. Cancer of the prostate is believed to be associated with high levels of animal derived choline from eggs, and androgen that is found in the yolks. 

 

In Dr. Michael Greger’s 2012 presentation (shown above), Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, he points out the Harvard Heath Study's competing risks analysis. By comparing risks of one bad habit with how health depleting the effects are of another, researchers are able to draw up many scenarios displaying how damaging our lifestyle choices can be. After a 35 year follow-up, the research team found enough evidence to determine the amount of cholesterol from consuming one egg per day will cut a woman's life short as much as smoking five cigarettes a day for 15 years. 

Contrary to what the American Egg Board would like for us to believe about their product, there is overwhelming scientific evidence warning us about the dangers of egg consumption. 

Our best sources for protein come from amino acid-rich food sources. Raw fruits, vegetables, sea vegetables, and sprouts contain an abundance of amino acids. Because we create proteins from the amino acids in plants, it should be noted that we are getting enough protein when we eat fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, edible flowers, and seaweeds in the right combinations. 

Whole, plant-based foods are the solution

Eggs are not a healthy choice for obtaining protein. Soaking raw nuts and seeds increases their amino acid content and helps the nutrients contained within become more bioavailable. 

Knowing this, healthy eaters often soak their nuts and seeds before ingesting them. Beyond soaking the seeds, you can also let them grow into germinates – where a small root begins to appear – and further into sprouts – which is when the leaf formation begins. Seed sprouts contain higher mineral, protein, and vitamin content than the ungerminated seeds. In addition to containing beneficial nutrients, edible raw plant matter – especially greens and seaweed – protects calcium stores and adds alkalinity to the body. 

These foods can help reverse acidosis, clearing up the mucus and plaque that has accumulated from years of eating cooked oil residues and animal-derived foods.

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PBN Contributor:

Passionate about promoting the plant-based lifestyle and author of "Eating Plant-Based The New Health Paradigm."

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