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Are eggs good for you?
Back in the 1970's and 80's eggs got a really bad rap - and not for very substantial reasons. Much of what happened in the late 1960's that laid the groundwork for the egg's poor reputation wasn't based on sound science, but over the last 30 years research has shown that for most people, dietary eggs and cholesterol is not a problem.
Omega-3 fatty acids in... eggs?
I've written numerous times about the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids and their positive impact on heart health. Among the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids are fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, and vegetable sources include flaxseed and canola oil. Now we might be able to add certain types of eggs to that list.
Dieting? Eggs May Help You Lose
For years eggs have gotten a bad rap due to their comparatively high levels of cholesterol, and the egg breakfast has become to some degree a thing of the past. Studies of satiety (how satisfying a food is) indicate that eggs may be more satisfying than, say, a similar number of calories in a bagel form. One study appeared to indicate that eggs for breakfast might actually mean fewer calories eaten at lunch.
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More and more such claims as "clinically proven" are being found on food products. This is due to a wave of "functional foods" that are hitting the market. In some cases these can be great products with cholesterol lowering properties. In other cases the claims made are dubious. One such product is reported on in the journal Food Research International (2006;39(8):910-916). A fish oil enriched liquid egg product produced by Burnbrae Farms in Canada was evaluated in a crossover trial of 16 men.
When using the liquid egg product for 21 day crossover periods, the researchers report a drop in serum triglycerides of 32% in the participants. A slight drop in blood pressure was seen as well. There was, however, no change in the total cholesterol or LDL cholesterol seen.
While these are encouraging results on their face, there are a number of issues with this research. The main one is that the control diet given the men was made up of bacon, frozen waffles, non-hydrogenated light margarine and syrup. The study diet consisted of the liquid egg product, white toast and non-hydrogenated light margarine.
While these breakfasts were balanced for protein, carbohydrate and fat content by the investigators, a true comparison would have been to simply substitute the liquid egg product for whole eggs. This gives a truer real world experience with the only difference between the two diets being the addition of fish oil.
The other issue is that this is a very small study, and while the results are interesting, they are far from definitive. A much larger study needs to be undertaken and the design should allow for a more accurate control diet. There is the possibility of bias as the study was partly funded by the manufacturer of the liquid eggs. Some of the funding also came from AFMNet, a consortium of Canadian food manufacturers and the Canadian Government.
We know that high levels of triglycerides are a risk factor for heart disease and that using fish oil helps lower those levels. This is a novel way for people to consume fish oil without some of the side effects that many complain of. This study is not definitive proof that liquid eggs with fish oil are better than regular eggs.
There are an increasing number of "functional foods" coming on the market that might be of benefit. For now, if a package makes any research claim, consider it carefully. Many times the research is imperfect.
First posted: August 30, 2006