Updated March 28, 2022
By John McDougall, MD
Eggs are the richest unprocessed food commonly consumed. Rational thinking people might partake of this delicacy on a special occasion, such as after the annual Easter egg hunt. Reasonable behavior is undermined by the efforts of the American Egg Board whose mission to support America’s egg farmers and increase demand for eggs and egg products and their efforts have resulted in the monthly per capita shell egg consumption of 14.9 eggs on average. Annual expenditures were approximately $22 million per year for a total of $222.3 million over the 2007 through 2017 periods. The website Egg-Truth.com is an excellent resource to the misleading advertising put out by the American Egg Board.
Eggs Provide Ideal Nutrition (for Pre-hatched Chicks)
The purpose of a hen’s egg is to provide all the materials necessary to develop the one cell – created by the joining of a cock’s sperm with a hen’s ovum – into a complete chick with feathers, beak, legs, and tail. This miraculous growth and development is supported by a 1½ ounce package of ingredients – the hen’s egg – jam-packed with proteins, fats, cholesterol, vitamins and minerals. As a result, the hen’s egg has been called “one of nature’s most nutritious creations.” Indeed, an egg is the richest of all foods, and far too much of a “good thing” for people. The components of a cooked egg, even a hard-boiled egg, are absorbed through our intestines. As a result, this highly-concentrated food provides too much cholesterol, fat and protein for our body to process safely. The penalties are diseases of overnutrition – heart disease, obesity, and type-2 diabetes to name only a few consequences from malnutrition due to the Western diet.
Eggs as “Ideal Protein”
Eggs are promoted as the ideal source of protein for people – often referred to as a “perfect protein.” Eggs are high in protein, but the kinds of proteins in hen’s eggs are not ideal for people. When volunteer subjects were fed different foods to determine the ability of humans to utilize various protein mixtures, investigators found that our bodies can utilize the proteins in a mixture of eggs and potatoes 36 percent more efficiently than those from eggs alone.1 If the protein make-up of eggs were ideal, then you couldn’t improve upon it by adding potatoes, could you? Vegetable sources provide for all the protein needs of people – much safer and more ideal than from hen’s eggs. (See the December 2003 McDougall Newsletter for more on protein.)
Too Much of a “Good Thing” – Protein
(The Problem with Egg Whites)
A whole egg is 32% protein and the white of an egg is essentially 100% protein. Infants, growing children, and adults need, at most, 5% of their calories from protein. Therefore, eggs and egg products are 6 to 20 times more concentrated in protein than we need. Excess protein places burdens on our body, and especially on organs of metabolism, the liver and kidneys. Animal proteins, and particularly those from egg whites, are high in the troublesome, sulfur-containing amino acids, such as methionine.
Here are six examples of how excess sulfur-containing amino acids in your diet can adversely affect your health:
1) Amino acids, as the name implies, are acids; the sulfur-containing amino acids are the strongest acids of all, because they break down into powerful sulfuric acid. Excess dietary acid is the primary cause of bone loss leading to osteoporosis and kidney stone formation.2
2) The sulfur-containing amino acid methionine is metabolized into homocysteine. This substance is a risk factor associated with heart attacks, strokes, peripheral vascular disease, venous thrombosis, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and depression.3
3) Sulfur feeds cancerous tumors. Cancer cell metabolism is dependent upon methionine being present in the diet; whereas normal cells can grow on a methionine-free diet (feeding off other sulfur-containing amino acids).4-8
4) Sulfur from sulfur-containing amino acids is known to be toxic to the tissues of the intestine, and to have deleterious effects on the human colon, even at low levels – possibly causing ulcerative colitis.9-11
5) Restriction of methionine in the diet has been shown to prolong the life of experimental animals.12-13
6) Halitosis, body odor, and noxious flatus – akin to the smell of rotten eggs – are direct results of the sulfur-containing amino acids we eat.14-15 The foul odors of sulfur gases should be a clear message that something is terribly wrong and deserves our immediate attention.
“Eggs Not Harmful to Health” – Says the Egg Industry
A significant amount of the $22 million dollars spent annually by the American Egg Board is allocated for research projects examining the effects of dietary cholesterol on serum cholesterol levels in order to prove that eating eggs will not raise your risk of dying of heart disease. This is quite an endeavor when you consider eggs are the most concentrated source of cholesterol in the human diet – 8 times more cholesterol than beef. Traditionally, in scientific studies on humans, eggs have been used as the source to demonstrate the adverse effects of cholesterol on our health and our heart arteries.
Eggs are the Food Richest in Cholesterol
|All Plant Foods||0|
Dozens of papers published in scientific journals and funded by “The Egg Nutrition Center” and/or the “American Egg Board” downplay the hazards of eating eggs. So how do they demonstrate that eating loads of these cholesterol-filled delicacies has little effect on blood cholesterol? One trick is to saturate the subjects with cholesterol from other sources, like beef, chicken and/or fish and then add eggs to the person’s diet. Once a person has consumed 400 to 800 mg of cholesterol in a day, adding more (like with an egg) causes little rise because the bowel cannot absorb much more cholesterol.16,17 Poor-quality studies, often funded by the egg industry, add to the false information they use to vindicate their products.18
Another way to design experiments that show eggs do not raise cholesterol is to take measurements of blood cholesterol only in a fasting state.
Research shows that adding eggs causes high rises in blood cholesterol primarily following a meal. Approximately 7 hours after a meal—which would be a fasting blood cholesterol—the cholesterol levels in the blood are back down to their original low levels. The egg industry knows this and thus they report only of fasting cholesterol (lipid) levels in the studies that show little or no rise in cholesterol after egg feeding.19
However, atherogenesis, the development of diseased arteries, occurs during the rise in blood cholesterol that occurs in the postprandial period (after meals).20 Therefore, much more important than the effects on fasting cholesterol are the post-prandial effects on lipids of feeding eggs.
The actual impact of egg-feeding is seen when people who eat little cholesterol are fed eggs. When 17 lactovegetarian college students (consuming 97 mg of cholesterol daily) were fed one extra-large egg daily for three weeks their “bad” LDL-cholesterol increased by 12%.21
Too Much of a “Bad Thing” – Cholesterol
(The Problem with Egg Yolks)
The real-life effects of eggs were recently investigated in a large population of nearly 6,000 vegetarians and 5,000 non-vegetarians over a period of 13 years. Within this group of nearly 11,000 people, those eating eggs more than 6 times a week had a 2.47 times greater risk of dying of heart disease than those eating less than one egg a week.22
A fifty-year study of nearly 2000 middle-aged men, the Western Electric Study, found a dietary reduction in cholesterol intake of 430 mg/dL (same as 2 eggs) was associated with a 43% reduction in long-term risk of coronary heart disease, a 25% reduction of risk of death from all causes, and 3 years longer life expectancy.18 In addition to heart disease, a higher cholesterol intake is also associated with more risk for strokes, blood clots, high blood pressure, and cancers of the breast, prostate, colon, lung, and brain. Cholesterol is the most damaging to our arteries when it is present in an oxidized form (as free radicals). Eggs and egg-derived products are the main source of oxidized cholesterol in our diet.23
Untainted research from high-quality studies shows that adding one egg to the daily diet of the average “healthy” person, already eating 200 mg of cholesterol from other sources, will increase their serum cholesterol by about 4%, which translates into an 8% increase in their risk of heart disease.24 Two eggs daily will mean a 6% increase in cholesterol (12 mg/dL) and 12% more heart disease over the next 5 to 10 years.18 For young adult men, indulgence in two of these “Easter bunny treats” daily means 30% more coronary heart disease over their lifetime.18 Jeremiah Stamler, MD, the Chairman of the Department of Preventive Medicine of the Feinberg School of Medicine (Northwestern University), wrote in 1999 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, “It is a reasonable inference that the sizable decline in per capita egg consumption in the United States in recent decades, and hence in per capita total cholesterol intake, has been one important component of the improved dietary patterns leading to a fall in mean serum cholesterol concentration in the adult population from ~ 6.08 mmol/L (235 mg/dL) in the 1950s to ~ 5.30 mmol/L (205 mg/dL) in the 1990s, and to the concomitant sustained marked reductions in mortality rates from CHD, all cardiovascular diseases, and all causes.”18 Between 1970 and 1995 annual consumption decreased from 310 to 235 eggs per person.
And Too Much of Some Other “Bad Things”
Eggs are filled with too much protein, cholesterol, calories, fat, bacteria, and environmental chemical contamination to be consumed with any frequency, with any expectation of health. Egg protein is a common source of allergy in infants, children and adults, producing problems from hives to asthma. Eggs are high in fat which promotes obesity and type-2 diabetes. Fats and cholesterol in eggs promote the formation of cholesterol gallstones and gallbladder attacks. Egg-borne infections caused by the salmonella bacteria can give rise to cramps, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, chills, fever and/or headache – food poisoning called salmonellosis.25-26 Eggs are a main contributor to human exposure to dioxin and other environmental chemicals that are known to cause birth defects, neurologic damage, and cancer.27 Many nutritional qualities of eggs are similar to the nutritional qualities of cow’s milk, cheese, chicken, beef, and fish – foods known to cause major health problems when consumed in typical amounts of people living in western societies.
The Egg Industry Is Out of Control
Twenty-five years ago, based on the concerns of the American Heart Association, the Federal Trade Commission carried out legal action – upheld by the US Supreme Court – to compel the egg industry to desist from false and misleading advertising claiming that eggs had no harmful effects on health.18 These days, with a $22 million annual budget for product promotion, matters are even worse than before with the egg industry doubling down on their past unrestrained claims like:
“…there’s no need to avoid eggs on a heart-health diet.”
“Even cholesterol-lowering diets allow moderate amounts of whole eggs.”
“An Egg a Day May Keep Heart Disease Away”
“…eat your eggs, they’re good for you.”
Unfortunately, we live in a “lawless wild west” when it comes to consumer protection from the big food businesses. Therefore, only you can defend yourself and your family from such profit-driven bogus claims and the harms that come to those who fail to understand this lesson: Eggs are a delicacy, prudently reserved for Easter.
|Binding of flours in baking||Egg Replacer by Ener-G Foods|
|Breakfast||Cook tofu scramble* (or better yet, have oatmeal)|
|Eggless Egg Salad||Make from tofu or garbanzo beans|
|Baking||Use 1/4 cup flaxseed meal with 3/4 cup water (boil for 3 minutes)|
Do not use egg-substitutes, like EggBeaters©, Second Nature©, and All Whites©; they are essentially egg whites with the health problems of high-sulfur protein discussed above. Egg whites also contain no essential dietary fiber, carbohydrate, fat or vitamin C. Many health-conscious people fall for this trap.
Composition of Eggs
|Whole Chicken Egg|
|50 grams (1 2/3 ounce)|
|60 to 70% fat|
|30 to 40% protein|
|0 grams of dietary fiber|
|212 mg cholesterol|
|33 grams (1 ounce)|
|0 grams of dietary fiber|
|0 mg cholesterol|
|17 grams (half an ounce)|
|70 to 80% fat|
|20 to 30% protein|
|0 grams of dietary fiber|
|212 mg cholesterol|
The composition of eggs is influenced by the food of the fowl. However, the eggs of various fowl are essentially composed of very similar materials. Carotenoid pigments derived from plant foods make the yolk yellow.
1) Kofranyi E, Jekat F, Muller-Wecker H. The determination of the biological value of dietary proteins. XVI. The minimum protein requirement of humans, tested with mixtures of whole egg plus potato and maize plus beans. Hoppe Seylers Z Physiol Chem. 1970 Dec;351(12):1485-93.
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