Eggs were vilified as unhealthy in the past because it was thought their cholesterol content would cause a rise in the cholesterol levels of those who ate them. A new study from the University of Connecticut dispels that cholesterol myth and also affirms the health benefits of adding eggs to your diet.
Researchers looked at the impact of adding eggs to the diet of healthy young adults and published their findings in the journal Nutrients. This study was different in that it focused on the broad implications of egg consumption rather than looking specifically at individual biomarkers in isolation.
Scientist Catherine J. Andersen expressed that most of the existing research on egg consumption looked at the impact of cholesterol and found mixed results and they tended to focus on a limited range of clinical markers for heart disease, diabetes, body composition, inflammation and others. Additionally, the participants in other studies tended to have pre-existing conditions and other risk factors for chronic disease. And eggs were generally added as part of a dietary regimen like a weight loss plan. Andersen was concerned those factors could complicate the interpretation of how eggs affect health so she opted for a young, healthy study participants.
"It helps to provide a comprehensive picture of the effects of egg intake in a young, healthy population utilizing standard, routine clinical biomarkers," Andersen says. "We believe that allows for greater translation to the general public."
Study participants either ate no eggs, three egg whites or three whole eggs per day. They could prepare the eggs in any manner they preferred.
Researchers found participants had greater nutrient density in their diet with the whole eggs and did not see any adverse changes in inflammation or blood cholesterol levels.
"The fact that we were looking at the comprehensive range of measurement allows for a better assessment of the overall effects of egg intake that one might expect," Andersen says. "I think that's important because if you see one marker change that is less positive, you can see, perhaps in context, beneficial shifts in others."
The ones who ate the whole eggs had significant increases in choline, which is an essential nutrient found in egg yolks. Choline intake has been associated with increases in a metabolite called TMAO that is linked to heart disease but there was no increase in TMAO found in study participants despite the increase in choline.
"That's kind of the best-case scenario," Andersen says. "We want to have rich amounts of this important nutrient, but not increase this metabolite that could potentially promote cardiovascular disease."
Andersen plans to continue studying egg intake and its relationship to a variety of health factors.
"The trend in the field of nutrition is to establish a framework for making precision or personalized nutrition recommendations, and explore how differences age, sex, genetics, microbiome composition, and more can impact an individual's response to dietary intervention," Andersen says. "Certainly, that's something my lab and others in my department are starting to look at more."