The egg is one of the most controversial foods among nutritionists: after decades of studies and debates about its health effects, there is still no unanimity on the subject in the scientific community.
Although a few decades ago the egg was not considered healthy and some researchers referred to "bad" cholesterol as a precipitant factor for heart attacks, that negative appreciation was attenuated over time, to the extent that in 2010 the US Department of Health established a risk-free dose a maximum of 300 milligrams of cholesterol per day, a little more than an egg contains. Even the American Heart Association recommended this daily intake.
In addition, the latest edition of dietary recommendations eliminated all limits of dietary intake, arguing that there was no scientific justification for suggesting otherwise.
However, a new study again discourages the consumption of eggs. According to a report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 300 milligrams of cholesterolper day It is associated with a 17% increase in the risk of cardiovascular diseases and 18% in the chances of death from other causes. The more eggs are eaten, the higher the risk, is kept there.
But nothing is final. "If dietary cholesterol is associated with cardiovascular disease or death, it is a question that has been debated for decades. Positive, negative and neutral associations were reported. The existing literature is still very controversial and inconclusive so that nutrition experts and researchers can draw a conclusion and determine whether eggs are healthy or not, "said Dr. Victor Zhong, co-author of the study and postdoctoral researcher at the Feinberg School of Medicine (Northwestern University, USA) , in an email to Time.
However, before validating or totally rejecting the eggs, a New York Times columnist and health expert, Jane Brody, studied the shortcomings of that latest research and how it correlates with current dietary guidelines. and other previous studies.
The study analyzed data from six prospective cohort studies, conducted over periods of up to 31 years, that covered 29,615 adults. During that time, 5,400 cardiovascular events and 6,132 deaths from causes of any order were recorded.
To analyze the relationship between cholesterol and cardiovascular disease and premature death, the researchers focused on the consumption of eggs, whose yolk contains this substance. The study established that eating three or four eggs per week correlates with the increase 6% and 8%, respectively, in such hazards.
Brody emphasizes that this is not an intervention study, so it is impossible to say with certainty what would have happened if participants had rejected food and replaced it with other foods.
"Several intervention studies have shown that moderate egg consumption does not visibly increase cholesterol levels"said Frank Hu, an expert in nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard University's School of Public Health.
"Low to moderate consumption of three or four eggs per week does not appear to have a significant effect on blood cholesterol, unless the person has already had high cholesterol levels or type 2 diabetes"He explained.
The expert argued that in most previous studies involving healthy people, moderate egg consumption was not associated with a significant increase in risks to contract cardiovascular diseases.
Hu commented that the contradictory results between the different studies are not uncommon, which he described as "part of the scientific process". Therefore, in formulating recommendations "we must pay attention to the tests in their entirety, without exaggerating in a new study".
Eat or not eat?
Zachary Clayton, author of a comprehensive report on egg consumption and heart health, published in the journal Nutrition in 2017, argues that two eggs a day for 12 weeks did not increase cardiovascular risk factors in healthy people. In addition, this diet reduced levels of triglycerides (fat)
According to this postdoctoral researcher in nutrition at the University of Colorado (USA), "it is important distinguish between hiporresponders and hyperresponders to dietary cholesterol. "
"In case of hyperreaction, eating two eggs a day will increase the risk of cardiovascular disease," he admitted.
Prior to including eggs in the diet, the specialist suggests pass a blood test and repeat it after three or four weeks of moderate consumption, "to assess the individual response to dietary cholesterol." If the results are kept within the norm, there is no need to consider this food as a risk factor.
At the same time, regular consumers should pay close attention to two other important aspects. The first is what other products dominate in your diet. Saturated fats from red meats and nonfat dairy products they have a stronger effect for cholesterol levels and cardiovascular risk of dietary cholesterol. So if someone follows a Mediterranean diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, fish and poultry, and rarely eats red meat – including processed meat, cheeses and other high-fat foods, will minimize concerns about cholesterol of gem
The second is the benefit of egg consumption. Despite its high cholesterol, this food has relatively low levels of saturated fats. In addition, it is an excellent source of important nutrients, such as phosphorus, potassium and vitamins A, D and group B. It also contains high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, compounds that help prevent age-related macular degeneration. The buds are ultimately the most concentrated source of choline, an essential component for brain development and a healthy nervous system.
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