The incredible, edible, egg. Where to begin? A daily dietary staple in just about every household in America. The truth of the matter is that the egg may be one of the most perfect food sources on planet earth for its contribution to overall human health. Did I say that too quickly? Did I show my cards and reveal my hidden bias on the contentious topic of whether or not eggs fit into a healthy, human diet?
Nope. Because the topic should never have been contentious, to begin with. Anyone who believes these beautiful little gifts from nature are contributing to chronic disease in any way is, well… wrong. Now, I want to pause here and say that I rarely make such blanket statements. I am always open to having my mind changed. But if we examine the data both for and against the idea of eggs being healthy, the evidence is astronomically lopsided.
Yet, somehow, these terrifying headlines about eggs keep popping up. Notice how I said, “terrifying headlines,” not, “terrifying studies.” There is nothing scary about any of these so-called “studies." In fact, the conclusions reached from the data collected in these studies often proves the opposite of what the headline in stating. The problem is, in 2019, most social media consumers share content without actually consuming it. Does that sound strange to you? If so, you may be surprised to learn that a full 59 percent of all links shared on social media are shared by individuals who never even clicked the link.
That’s right, they shared because the article had a catchy headline… even though they couldn’t be bothered to actually read the article.
Case in point, the latest viral article claiming that eggs increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. In this post, I’m going to be focusing exclusively on this absurdly problematic article. I felt personally compelled to dive into this one because I actually took the time to read the cited study. My conclusion? I just could not understand how any human being on planet earth could not see through the nonsense and quickly realize that the reported findings were not only false; but that the study itself was utterly useless.
I’m going to walk you through this, starting with the headlines, then moving on to the actual data. Here we go…
CNN - “Three or More Eggs a Week Increase Your Risk of Heart Disease and Early Death, Study Says."
NPR - “Egg Lovers: New Study Finds Eating Too Many Can Increase Risk of Heart Disease."
WSJ - “Study Links Eggs To Higher Cholesterol and Risk of Heart Disease.”
Wow! Horrifying stuff! I better click on this suspiciously Clickbait-y link!
The only problem is… not a single word of those headlines is actually true. Not even close. Still, people just kept clicking that “share” button and poisoning the minds of all their friends and followers.
The actual article is titled, “Associations of Dietary Cholesterol or Egg Consumption with Incident Cardiovascular Disease and Mortality.”
The Actual Results:
The article claimed that each additional 300 mg of dietary cholesterol consumed per day was "significantly associated" with a higher risk of incident cardiovascular disease (CVD 3.24%) and all-cause mortality (4.43%).
Then they claimed each additional half an egg consumed per day was "significantly associated" with a higher risk of incident CVD (1.11%) and all-cause mortality (1.93%).
Scary stuff, right?! I mean, by these numbers, we’re talking about an increased risk that is so significant that when translated into fancy-pants, scientific terms, it means there would be two additional cardiovascular events per 1,000 person-years. If you can’t sense my sarcasm here, I’m saying that the reported “increased risk” is, realistically, non-existent.
Now, for the most unbelievable part of this entire debacle. The last line of the conclusion from the very study itself:
"The associations between egg consumption and incident CVD and all-cause mortality were no longer significant after adjusting for dietary cholesterol consumption. Those increases changing to -0.46% for CVD and 0.71% for all-cause mortality."
Wait! … What?! The conclusion clearly states no significant association between egg consumption and CVD or all-cause mortality.
Can someone please tell me how the hell we were subjected to such ridiculous headlines when the actual conclusion of this study was that egg consumption shows no association with cardiovascular disease?!
It’s almost unfathomable, in my opinion. It makes it pretty easy to understand why so many people are running around screaming, “Fake news!” these days.
To be blunt about it, this literally is fake news. Like, seriously.
Cake and Ice Cream:
To make matters worse, the “Full Text” of this study is hidden behind a paywall online. If you manage to get access to it, you will find that this study didn’t even track actual egg intake. Instead, they looked at foods containing eggs mixed with other ingredients. They included cakes, cookies, ice cream and a bunch of other junk foods.
Let me say that again, the researchers counted food such as cake and ice cream as “eggs.”
I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.
Ok, ok, surely, there must be some reason why they write those headlines, right?! Clearly, there must be something in the data that we’re missing. Something that made them feel compelled to warn people. There’s got to be something else!
Honestly, I kind of wish there was. Because, at this point, I’m about ready to get fitted for a tinfoil hat. Alas, there is literally nothing in the study that could even remotely be construed as noteworthy... or even properly conducted science for that matter. Let me explain how this study was conducted. Fair warning, it only gets more absurd from here.
This Observational Study Was a Food Questionnaire:
Let’s start with how the “data” was collected. "Individual participant data were pooled from 6 prospective US cohorts using data collected between March 25, 1985, and August 31, 2016. Self-reported diet data were harmonized using a standardized protocol.”
In layman’s terms… they just asked people to report what they ate each month. This might sound insane to you if this is the first time you’ve heard of such a thing so I’ll be the bearer of bad news here and let you in on a little secret… this is how most nutrition studies are conducted. Oh, and the accuracy of these food questionnaires is every bit as bad as one would expect from such an unscientific approach. Just how inaccurate? I’m glad you asked…
A paper published in 2013 that attempted to put a number on it. They looked at almost four decades of results of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES)—the big U.S. government database on diet—and compared what people said they ate with how much they’d need to eat merely to stay alive. Their findings:
“Across the 39-year history of the NHANES, the energy intake data (how many calories were consumed) on the majority of respondents (67.3% of women and 58.7% of men) were not physiologically plausible.”
That is, if people ate what they reported they ate, they would have starved to death. Pretty sure we can’t call that “accurate” data. In other words, more than half the data was demonstrably wrong. And that’s not even counting the other individuals who were over reporting food intake.
If it hasn’t hit you yet, I just told you that 4 decades worth of nutrition studies from the U.S. Government Database are so inaccurate that they are entirely useless.
The Nail In The Coffin:
The most problematic part of this pop-culture nightmare is the way the headlines claim the study “proved” or “showed” anything at all. The thing is, all these articles are citing observational research and observational studies cannot prove causation. Period.
For that reason, all these news outlets discredited themselves right of the bad, with nothing but their headlines. The headlines trick us into thinking that causation was proven. “X caused Y.” But the only scientific way to prove causation is using Randomized Controlled Trials. In RCTs, participants are divided into two groups, and only one variable is tested at a time.
The best way to do this for nutrition studies is by using Metabolic Wards. Patients are placed in a controlled environment where every aspect of their lives are monitored and controlled for. Food intake, sleep, exercise, etc. all carefully controlled. As you can imagine, these tests are absurdly expensive, often costing tens of millions of dollars, and wildly inconvenient. Let alone getting willing participants to live in such a setting for a meaningful period of time. Which is why most Metabolic Ward studies are very short-lived. For those reasons, it’s just easier for scientists to use observational studies… even though they can’t prove causation.
Let's talk about what happens when variables are not controlled. You know, like this egg study I keep talking about. In this study, zero other variables known to impact the risk of CVD and mortality were controlled for. Here are just a few examples:
Smoking, alcohol consumption, sugar consumption, hydrogenated oil consumption, body weight, body fat percentage, prior risk of CVD, prior cholesterol levels, sleep quality, stress levels, occupation, ethnicity, and the list goes on and on...
So, again, I cannot understand how these researchers decided to pin the blame on eggs! By this logic, you could have chosen any other defining characteristic of the individuals who had cardiac events.
Maybe they were all divorced. Perhaps they were all Scorpios. Maybe there were all born on a rainy day. Perhaps they were all bitten by dogs as children. You get my point...
The headlines could have been just as accurate if they read, "Being Bitten By a Dog as a Child Shown to Increase Risk of Heart Disease and Early Death."
I wonder how many people who share that headline without reading the article?!
Let’s wrap up and get back to our dear old friend, the egg. I want to be very clear here, there has never been a Randomized Controlled Trial proving causation between eggs and any life-threatening incidents of any kind. If there had been, the media wouldn’t need to resort to such blatantly biased attempts to demonize this animal product. And don’t kid yourself, the fact that eggs are an animal product is exactly why this keeps happening.
It reminds me of the red meat and cancer debate… show me a study proving causality. Go ahead, I’ll wait… But that’s another topic, for another day. I’m not even going to touch on the sickening conspiracy behind the global push to remove animals from our food systems.
Anyway, I hope this article has helped shed some light on the truth about eggs and scientific studies. Or, at the very least, will make you think twice before sharing clickbait headlines that are, quite literally, dangerous.
On a positive note… For a killer article on the incredible health benefits of eggs, click here.
P.S. I’ve been eating 4-6 eggs, every single day, for years and I have zero intentions of stopping any time soon.