Vol. 4, No. 3
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Eggs Are For Easter
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 is to make every day Easter for everybody, and the Board has a $14 million annual budget to accomplish this job. According to their web site (www.enc-online.org): “The American Egg Board’s mission is to allow egg producers to fund and carry out proactive programs to increase markets for eggs, egg products and spent fowl products through promotion, research and education. As the egg industry’s promotion arm, the American Egg Board’s foremost challenge is to convince the American public that the egg is still one of nature’s most nearly perfect foods.” Their efforts are working: U.S egg production during 2003 was 73.93 billion table eggs – this means, on average, 235 eggs a year for every single man, woman and child in the country.
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 “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
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 $14 million collected each year 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.
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? The 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
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%.19
Too Much of a “Bad
Thing” – Cholesterol
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.20
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.21
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 a 8% increase in their risk of heart disease.22 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.23-24 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.25 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 $12 million annual budget for product promotion, matters are even worse than before with the egg industry now making unrestrained claims like: 26,27
“…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.
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.
2) Remer T. Influence of diet on acid-base balance. Semin Dial. 2000 Jul-Aug; 13(4): 221-6.
3) Troen AM. The atherogenic effect of excess methionine intake. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 Dec 9; 100(25): 15089-94.
4) Cellarier E. Methionine dependency and cancer treatment. Cancer Treat Rev. 2003 Dec; 29(6): 489-99.
5) Epner DE. Nutrient intake and nutritional indexes in adults with metastatic cancer on a phase I clinical trial of dietary methionine restriction. Nutr Cancer. 2002; 42(2): 158-66.
6) Paulsen JE. Growth stimulation of intestinal tumours in Apc(Min/+) mice by dietary L-methionine supplementation. Anticancer Res. 2001 Sep-Oct; 21(5): 3281-4.
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8) Yu H. Role of the insulin-like growth factor family in cancer development and progression. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2000 Sep 20;92(18):1472-89.
9) Levine J. Fecal hydrogen sulfide production in ulcerative colitis. Am J Gastroenterol. 1998 Jan;93(1):83-7.
10) Roediger W. Sulphide impairment of substrate oxidation in rat colonocytes: a biochemical basis for ulcerative colitis? Clin Sci (Lond). 1993 Nov;85(5):623-7.
11) Christl S. Effect of sodium sulfide on cell proliferation of colonic mucosa. Gastroenterology. 1994; 106:A664 (abstr).
12) Zimmerman JA. Nutritional control of aging. Exp Gerontol. 2003 Jan-Feb; 38(1-2): 47-52.
13) McCay C. The effect of retarded growth upon length of lifespan and upon ultimate body size. J Nutr. 1935; 10: 63-79.
14) McDougall J. Halitosis Is More than Bad Breath . McDougall Newsletter. January 2002 at www.drmcdougall.com.
15) McDougall J. Bad Farts? Meat Stinks! McDougall Newsletter. August 2002 at www.drmcdougall.com.
16) W. Connor. Reply to letter by Oster. Am J Clin Nutr. 1982;36:1261.
17) Hopkins PN. Effects of dietary cholesterol on serum cholesterol: a meta-analysis and review. Am J Clin Nutr. 1992 Jun;55(6):1060-70.
18) Stamler J, Greenland P, Van Horn L, Grundy SM. Dietary cholesterol, serum cholesterol, and risks of cardiovascular and noncardiovascular diseases. Am J Clin Nutr. 1998 Mar;67(3):488-92.
19) Sacks FM, Salazar J, Miller L, Foster JM, Sutherland M, Samonds KW, Albers JJ, Kass EH. Ingestion of egg raises plasma low density lipoproteins in free-living subjects. Lancet. 1984 Mar 24;1(8378):647-9.
20) Appleby PN, Thorogood M, Mann JI, Key TJ. The Oxford Vegetarian Study: an overview. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 Sep;70(3 Suppl):525S-531S.
21) Valenzuela A, Sanhueza J, Nieto S. Cholesterol oxidation: health hazard and the role of antioxidants in prevention. Biol Res. 2003;36(3-4):291-302.
22) Hu FB, Stampfer MJ, Rimm EB, Manson JE, Ascherio A, Colditz GA, Rosner BA, Spiegelman D, Speizer FE, Sacks FM, Hennekens CH, Willett WC.A prospective study of egg consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease in men and women. JAMA. 1999 Apr 21;281(15):1387-94.
23) Srilatha B, Adaikan PG, Ng SC, Aulkumaran. Outbreaks of Salmonella serotype enteritidis infection associated with eating shell eggs—United States, 1999-2001. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2003 Jan 3;51(51-52):1149-52.
24) Mackenzie AR, Laing RB, Cadwgan AM, Reid TM, Smith CC.Raw egg ingestion and salmonellosis in body builders. Scott Med J. 1998 Oct;43(5):146-7.
25) Parzefall W. Risk assessment of dioxin contamination in human food.