This week, our Contributing Writer, Dr. W. Gifford-Jones talks about the effects of chickens and eggs in our diet:
Headlines fool a lot of people. In March 1984 the cover of Time Magazine caught everyone’s attention. It read “Cholesterol, Now the Bad News”. It reported that cholesterol had been proven deadly and our diet should never be the same again. Researchers have since found little or no correlation between cholesterol in our food and our blood cholesterol. But since eggs contain more cholesterol than most other foods, hens have taken a brutal beating. So why have North American Egg Associations failed to defend hens more vigorously? And why have they ignored scientific facts about heart attack?
At one point it looked like the hens were getting a welcome break. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) has since ruled that it is no longer necessary for people in the U.S. to limit dietary cholesterol to 300 milligrams (mg) daily.
So can we eat eggs again without fear? Professor Alice H. Lichtenstein, who served on the DGAC committee, says having an egg every day or two is OK for some people. But going back to previously high levels was not good for most.
Dr. Robert Eckel, Professor of Medicine at the University of Colorado, adds “a three to four egg omelette isn’t something I’d ever recommend to a patient at risk of cardiovascular disease”.
Now a report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition combines 16 studies ranging from seven to 20 years involving up to 90,000 people. The good news is that eating one egg daily did not increase the risk of cardiovascular disease in healthy people.
The bad news is that people with diabetes who consumed eggs daily had a 69 percent greater chance of cardiovascular disease than those who did not eat eggs or who ate less than one a week. But this is simply an association as researchers do not know why eggs increase the risk of diabetes. So it may mean nothing, and why worry people about eggs?
So how can hens be saved from becoming an endangered species? Good sense should be part of the equation. For instance, in North America, there’s an unprecedented epidemic of a deadly trio of diseases that’s been building for years. Rampant obesity causes Type 2 diabetes which in turn triggers heart attack. So it is highly unlikely that heart attack is the result of eggs which have been consumed for hundreds of years, long before this epidemic occurred.
Today the big killer is diabetes. It’s notorious for causing atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries) which decreases blood supply, resulting in coronary attack, kidney failure, blindness, and leg amputations.
Will I stop eating eggs? Hell will freeze over first. For decades I’ve written that I trust farmers more than food manufacturers who load our food with sugar, salt and excessive calories. But it’s sugar, present in many food products, that is the major caloric hazard.
Years ago John Yudkin, Professor of Physiology at London University, criticized the public acceptance of news that food containing cholesterol caused coronary heart disease. Rather, he studied the intake of sugar in several countries and concluded that those countries which consumed the most sugar had a higher incidence of coronary disease.
So I will not say no to ham and eggs, or blame the hens for heart attack when the problem is questionable lifestyle. I’ll also limit sugary desserts. And continue to step on the bathroom scale every day to ensure that my weight remains normal, then use my two legs to keep healthy.
If I were President of the Poultry and Egg Processors Council, I’d defend the chicken and egg industry more vigorously. I’d point out that Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling claimed it was a lack of vitamin C that caused blocked arteries. Later, English researcher Sydney Bush, showed that high doses of vitamin C and lysine could prevent and reverse blocked arteries. Various brands of high C and lysine are available in Health Food Stores.