THE BLOG

Are Eggs Killing Your Heart?

05/08/2013 11:35 am ET | Updated Jul 08, 2013
  • Adam Bornstein New York Times best selling author, fitness and nutrition editor, media consultant, founder of Born Fitness

I shouldn't be doing this. I know I shouldn't. And yet, I feel it's my obligation.

When information came out last week saying that eggs are a health concern and cause cardiovascular disease, I let out a deep sigh; more sensational health journalism at it's best. Here's how it works: Find a study with a controversial claim, squeeze some value from it, and then scare the crap out of everyone with a salacious headline that makes a bold, definitive statement along the lines of "Eggs Raise Heart Risk." Which, of course, is exactly what happened. I can already see the yolks being thrown down the disposal. What a pitiful waste.

Before I could preach the benefits of eggs and slam the study, I had to make sure that this new research didn't uncover something that the previous work did not. After all, one of my biggest complaints with the health industry is that we're afraid to admit when we're wrong. I don't believe in dogma, grandstanding, or ego. I just care about delivering information that makes living healthier an easier process. In fact, that was the entire backbone of my New York Times best-selling book, Engineering the Alpha.

I've been a champion of eggs for quite some time. I'm the guy that did the three-month eggsperiment and the same guy who wrote that eggs are one of the healthiest foods in the world. These claims didn't come from nowhere. It was a combination of personal experience mixed with a tidal wave of research. If you really want to know about it, this study, and this one, and this one all show no relationship between eating eggs and cardiovascular disease. (Okay, and here's another and one more just to make my point)

And yet, I was still curious. So I reached out to the best, as I always do, to find out the latest on eggs. I spoke with nutritionist extraordinaire Alan Aragon. And I contacted the geniuses at Examine.com, the best website on supplements and nutrition that everyone should know about. (Full disclosure: I'm an advisor for the site. I'm not paid a cent, I just help with editorial -- but the content speaks for itself. Just look at this supplement guide.)

I read the study, and so did Aragon and the Examine.com team. Here's what you need to know.

The New York Times article suggests that eating eggs begins a digestive process that inevitably creates a chemical known as TMAO (trimethylamine N-oxide). And TMAO has been linked to increased risk of heart attack and stroke. So naturally, you should watch out for eggs. Or should you?

In the words of Lee Corso: Not so fast, my friends.

We need to first realize that this was not a controlled study on eggs consumption and CVD. We have three studies that have done so, shown no effect, and stated that the link between dietary cholesterol and heart disease was "largely over-exaggerated."

Contrary to media reports, there is no molecular link between egg consumption and TMAO in this study. The radiolabeled phosphatidylcholine was consumed via a gelatin capsule alongside two (non-labeled) eggs, which contained free choline.

That said, it is definitely plausible (and likely) that eggs can increase TMAO via the choline content; this cannot be concluded right now, though.

This study also confirmed a correlation between TMAO and cardiovascular disease risk, so it appears that TMAO may be a useful biomarker in the future for cardiovascular disease risk. Whether TMAO is increased by dietary factors or other factors, it appears to be associated with an increased risk for heart disease.

While one can directly blame eggs for the increase in TMAO, it would be improper to blame egg consumption for increased TMAO (which is correlated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease). Any blame would better be directed toward the intestinal metabolism and the bacteria that helps convert to TMAO.

So what does it all mean?

The real takeaway is that eggs are healthy -- if you are healthy. This new research provides more evidence that if you have a metabolic disorder, you might need to be careful. (This study and this, and this provides some more background.) Does that mean completely avoiding eggs? Probably not. But it does mean that a Born-like protocol might not be in your best interest.

If you want all the scientific details about the safety of eggs, check out this in-depth article at Examine.com.

Unless you have metabolic disorder, you should still feel confident about enjoying eggs with the yolk.

Make it Count,

Born

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