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Study Claiming Eggs Being As Harmful As Cigarettes Is Complete Non Sense

This week a good friend of mine forwarded me a link to a story from the LA Times that reported on a study that apparently showed eating whole eggs could contribute to clogging your arteries almost as much as cigarette smoking.

Say what? Yeah, exactly my thoughts as well.

That’s a pretty bold claim to say the least so I was eager to dig into the research and find out who came to this conclusion and how.

What I found was a flimsy correlation study full of assumptions that reeked of a possible hidden agenda or at the very least speculation from the onset. Not that I should be all that surprised because unfortunately we live in a time where this has become commonplace.

In today’s post I wanted to share with you what I found and provide my two cents for what it’s worth.

More after the jump…

Ok, let’s dive right in. With a few minutes of research I discovered the study was conducted by Canadian researchers, headed by Dr. David Spence, a professor at Western University in Ontario, Canada.

The study analyzed over 1,200 people who were patients at a Canadian vascular prevention clinic. Not just any patients mind you, these were all individuals who had previously suffered a stroke.

The mean age was 62 with the gender pretty equally split at 47% female and 53% male.

So basically, the research consisted of analyzing a series of tests used to assess cardiovascular health in a segment of older adults who had previously experienced a stroke.

The researchers took this information and correlated it to answers from a questionnaire the participants filled out on lifestyle factors (from memory).

The questionnaire focused on the following:

- lifestyle factors (not sure which).

- medications taken.

- pack-years of cigarette smoking.

- and the number of egg yolks consumed per week times the number of years consumed (what they referred to as “egg-yolk” years).

The first thing that stood out to me when reviewing this study was…

“Why were egg yolks singled out on the questionnaire but other dietary habits and food choices ignored?”

More on that in a minute…

What the researchers basically concluded from the study was smoking tobacco and eating egg yolks increased carotid artery wall thickness in a similar fashion.

For those whose consumption of whole eggs was in the highest 20%, the narrowing of the carotid artery was on average two-thirds that of the study’s heaviest smokers.

Hence, the conclusion that eating whole eggs contributes to plaque build up along the same lines as cigarette smoking.

Who paid for this study and why was it done?

Oh, how that could be tell-tale indicator but unfortunately I don’t have the answers. There are some clues though if we dig a little deeper.

The study was recently published in Atherosclerosis Journal, which is a European publication that publishes (according to their website), “European guidelines on cardiovascular disease prevention in clinical practice with the European Society of Cardiology and other societies on cardiovascular disease prevention.”

Anyone who follows health research studies extensively will tell you there’s without question a tilt in the European Atherosclerosis Journal and their contributors towards the long standing belief that cholesterol and saturated fats in foods are largely responsible for cardiovascular heart disease.

While this entire theory has been debunked countless times in other credible, peer-reviewed research, just know this is the “de-facto thinking” in this circle.

Here’s what this looks like on the surface…

Basically we start with a conclusion “eggs are bad” and rationalize the belief with a highly suspect correlation study and get it published in a European journal that we already know accepts the conclusion to be the accepted truth.

Humm…

The media loves this kind of stuff and it’s no surprise to me that the story went viral quickly. My email in-box blew up this week with readers asking me, “Shane, hey I thought you said eggs were good for us to eat.”

I’ve told everyone to refrain from jumping to conclusions until we could dig into the research. It’s no wonder though why so many people are confused about what’s good for them and what’s not. The story changes on a weekly basis depending on where you get your information.

Here’s the thing….I normally keep a pretty even keel when it comes to all the opposing opinions on what’s the best diet for people to be on. People love to argue that vegetarianism is best, Paleo is best, vegan is best, low-carb, high-protein, or whatever is best.

What’s “best” is sort of an individual thing to each person tied into lifestyle, body type, beliefs, and other factors.

Seriously, whatever works for you and provides you with optimal health in a manner that helps you live life the way you want to, go for it. Who am I or anyone else to tell you differently?

Sure, I tend to promote more of a Primal Blueprint type diet, but that’s just because I’ve seen it work well for countless middle age adults (myself included) who wanted to have more of a balanced approach with their diet and still have health, energy, and vitality.

But this doesn’t mean I bash those who believe in (for whatever reason) and choose to follow any particular diet.

I respect other people’s choices and beliefs, but when an individual or group starts using speculation and half-truths (or even lies) to spread fear about a particular natural food as a way to promote their own beliefs or ideology, I’ve got a real problem with that.

I’m not saying this was done here in all fairness to the researchers. But the conclusions drawn from the study sure do have a hint of suspicion.

Let’s be honest though, the world is a changing and “spin” is happening on lots of levels. Heck, look at the nature of politics in this country right now. Never before in recent memory have we seen our nation more divided along ideological lines.

This upcoming presidential campaign will be “dirty politics” like we’ve never witnessed before. It’s already started. The truth doesn’t matter much. Politicians and their pundits will leverage anything and everything they can (even if it’s not factual truth) to promote their agendas.

Where’s the ethical honesty, personal responsibility, and accountability? Think about the message this is sending to the next generation.

Not to steer this discussion into politics, but my point for bringing it up is I believe it’s simply a reflection of the broader shift that’s happening in our society.

The media doesn’t just report on “news” anymore. It’s more opinionated now than ever. Doesn’t matter if it’s politics, health, fitness, or any subject. You have to really dig down and search for the truth on most anything news worthy. And how many people really have the time or desire to do that?

It just goes to show that the old adage “believe half of what you see and none of what you hear” is truer now more than ever. But I digress, back to the subject of this study.

Food for thought on the conclusions from this study…

I don’t want to dwell too much on the ideas of possible hidden agendas and underlying ideologies from those who conducted or reported on this study. Maybe there’s something to this, maybe not. Either way we won’t get anywhere with that other than speculate on our own behalf.

That would be hypocritical and I’m not trying to judge anyways.

Rather, let’s look at some common sense questions that can be raised by looking at the study and determine how valid the conclusions really are.

As a I already eluded to earlier, why were eggs singled out in the diet but nothing else? Like you can single out a particular food in a research study and tie a correlation to a chronic disease. Good luck with that.

You’d have to ignore everything else in the diet or have controls to look at the effects of a particular food on already healthy individuals, etc. Seems like a very difficult proposition.

But seriously, so people we’re asked how many eggs they ate on average per week (over a period of years) in the study, based on total recall from memory. What does this really tell us?

There’s a big difference between eating several free-range eggs a day at breakfast with a bowl of blueberries, compared to pounding down a “Grand Slam” breakfast at Denny’s with a stack of pancakes, sausage, home fries, and toast.

I’m just saying….and what about the rest of the test participant’s diets?

What about their waist circumference?

What about their exercise habits?

What about their stress levels?

In short, what about ALL the other contributing factors that we know contribute to cardiovascular heart disease?

Smoking cigarettes is a no-brainer, that’s already been conclusively proven.

Most leading health experts and top physicians will tell you that cardiovascular heart disease is the result of INFLAMMATION in the body.

There are obviously several contributing factors, but STRESS, both physiological and psychological, results in inflammation which is the precursor to disease at the cellular level.

I don’t care how you cut it, it all goes back to stress and inflammation, be it from poor diet, lifestyle choices, and abusing the body in some way.

No natural food, even those which contain dietary cholesterol and saturated fat, can be traced back to singularly causing hardening of the arteries.

The research simply isn’t there to prove it and common sense observation tends to show us otherwise.

Look at previous generations. How come our grandparents and great-grandparents weren’t dropping dead of heart attacks and strokes when they consumed copious amounts of red meat, whole milk, real butter, lard, and do we dare say it “whole eggs?”

How can some current populations like the Aleutian Eskimos, whose diet is predominately made up of saturated animal and marine fats, show some of the lowest rates of cardiovascular disease on the planet?

I could go on and on, bottom line is things just don’t jive.

I’ve been on record before spouting off on this whole fallacy of dietary cholesterol and saturated fats being responsible for heart disease. I’ll refrain from further ranting today.

Bottom line is I don’t buy it and nothing that I’ve seen in research or with personal experience and observation leads me to believe it’s true.

I eat 3-4 eggs a day at breakfast in part of a Primal Blueprint diet, albeit I’m not strict Paleo, but my blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels are ALL low and I’m good overall health.

But then again, I exercise regularly, try to live a balanced lifestyle and generally take care of my body. How many people in the study were living a balanced lifestyle with generally supportive nutrition diets, exercising regularly, and not abusing their bodies?

My guess is not many since they were all cardiovascular patients to begin with.

Think about this for a second…

You’d think that things like how many of them we’re overweight, diabetic, or suffering from insulin resistance for example would be contributing factors worth looking at.

I mean let’s look at what’s really behind heart disease. It’s certainly not any one particular natural food like an egg for crying out loud.

In all fairness, you can find studies where LDL and triglyceride levels have been significantly reduced by individuals eating pretty much exclusively from starch carbohydrates, or just fruits and vegetables, or high levels of saturated fats and low carbs, etc.

You can’t point your finger at any one particular macronutrient because they’ve all been shown to improve markers when used in an isolated manner. There’s a lot of spin that goes on to promote a particular way of eating or ideology, but you can’t get around this fact.

One health guru promotes an exclusive starch diet and sees positive results from his/her patients or followers.

Therefore fats and protein must be the problem!

The next health guru promotes an exclusive raw food diet of fruits and vegetables and sees positive results from his/her patients or followers.

Therefore all “dead” foods must be the problem!

And the next health guru promotes a high fat diet and sees positive results from his/her patients or followers.

Therefore carbohydrates must be the problem!

They all back it up with research, valid or not, but can’t fully explain how the other guy’s method worked as well. Are you starting to see through all of this?

The “starch guy” vilifies saturated fat because if higher levels of fat were incorporated into the already high carbohydrate diet, the results would be disastrous and he knows it.

Triglycerides and cholesterol would go up because the body would become chronically flooded with excess blood sugar and insulin resistance wouldn’t be far behind.

The same thing could be said for most all diets that promote the exclusion of a certain food or food groups even if they’re natural. They work in large part because the body adapts to fueling off any macronutrients (fats, protein, or carbs) when selectively provided in the diet.

This is how some populations in the world can consume diets predominately made up from one particular macronutrient and not see dramatic adverse effects.

How can you explain why populations who eat almost exclusively from corn, rice, beans, and yes even animal fats, don’t have epidemic levels of heart disease, but yet “developed” societies like the United States do?

Maybe, just maybe…it’s not any one particular natural food that’s to blame, but rather the over-consumption of food in general along with how food is grown (can you say genetic modification), processed foods in the diet, the over-consumption of sugar, stress, being sedentary, etc.

Sure, under certain health conditions there’s something to be said with excluding certain foods from the diet. There’s also the matter of allergens with foods like wheat gluten and dairy. It all comes down to the unique needs of each individual.

But to speculate one particular food (be it that it’s natural) is directly correlated to a particular chronic illness and disease….come on now! Not when that food is consumed in a manner that doesn’t result in imbalances in the body.

It amazes me how some people who are convinced that eating eggs (and any food with cholesterol or saturated fats) is bad for them, but they’ll complain about their weight, lack of energy, and health problems while downing bagels with jelly and orange juice for breakfast.

If we’re going to have an “egg-yolk factor” why not a “donut factor?” Seriously, do we think there would be any correlation with test participants who had a stroke to how much garbage foods they ate over the years?

Nah, why look at that? The fact that someone ate eggs is what we’ll draw conclusions from. Doesn’t matter if they were overweight, sedentary, ate Big Mac value meals, or anything like that.

Common sense people…common sense!

If you already held the belief that eggs are bad for you, I doubt I’ve swayed your opinion in this article. Do what you do and to each his own.

But if you’re still suspect on whether or not eggs are good or bad for you, I encourage you to do your own research and come to your own conclusions.

Mark Sisson from “Marks Daily Apple” blog provided an interesting review of this study you can view here.

You can also check out numerous articles on Dr. Joe Mercola’s website on this subject. Here’s an article that directly speaks to the idea of eggs NOT harming your heart.

Yeah, these are both supporting my argument I know, but certainly look at the opposing viewpoints as well and do your own critical thinking.

From my experience, studies that look to vilify any whole, natural food as being a direct contributor to some chronic illness or disease likely have opinionated roots, a money trail, or some hidden agenda.

You want to tell me that trans-fats and processed foods with unnatural ingredients contribute to chronic illness, yeah I’m listening. But I have a hard time coming to grips with “anything under the sun” being responsible for human health demise.

The good Lord provided us with eggs, we came up with the Big Mac, Lean Cuisines, and Diet Coke. I think I know where I’ll put my trust and feel safe eating.

What say you?

Shane Doll is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts Personal Training Studios. He specializes in helping people achieve a body transformation with burst training exercise and whole food nutrition. You can receive a FREE no-obligations trial of his Charleston personal fitness programs and start experiencing the Shaping Concepts difference today.

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Category: Shane's Commentary.