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An egg a day may help you keep your eyesight
About 5% of people 65 or older suffer from Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), a disease which affects the part of the eye responsible for the sharpest central vision. One type of AMD has been associated with reduced blood levels of two antioxidants, carotenoids known as lutein and zeaxanthin. Chicken yolks provide a source of these carotenoids that is even more readily absorbed by the human body than lutein supplements or spinach, yet there is some concern that intake of additional chicken eggs might raise one's serum cholesterol levels.

Dieting? Eggs May Help You Lose
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.

Quit Worrying About Eggs!
It's a common misperception that those who have high cholesterol need to avoid foods with high levels of cholesterol in them, such as eggs and shrimp. The truth is that the amount of fat and saturated fat in your diet has much more impact on your cholesterol levels - and therefore your risk of heart failure - than the amount of cholesterol you eat.


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Eggs OK for Diabetics, Too

two fried eggs sunny-side-up with a piece of toast, garnished with orange slices

Sometimes it still seems to be an uphill battle to let people know that for the vast majority of people, dietary cholesterol (the cholesterol in your food) has virtually no effect on your cholesterol scores. Every now and then I still get an Ask Dr. Gourmet question about the cholesterol in a recipe, but the good news is that the word does seem to be getting out that eggs are good for you. That said, there's been lingering concern about eggs increasing the risk of heart disease or stroke in diabetics (JAMA 1999;281(15):1387-1394), so those with diabetes or pre-diabetes are often told to limit their egg consumption.

As always, it's great to be able to report on a study that looks at the issue directly. A team in Australia recruited 121 overweight or obese men and women who had been diagnosed with diabetes or pre-diabetes to participate in a three-month dietary study known as DIABEGG (Diabetes and Egg) (Am J Clin Nutr 2015;101:705-13). Half were assigned to a "High Egg group" and half were assigned to a "Low Egg group." Those in the High Egg group were instructed to eat 2 eggs per day at breakfast, while those in the Low Egg group were told to eat no more than 2 eggs per week, while having 10 grams of lean animal protein (beef, chicken, or fish) at breakfast.

Both groups were counseled by a dietitian on replacing foods high in saturated fats with foods high in poly- and mono-unsaturated fats (for example, replacing butter with olive oil). Both groups' diets were designed to maintain the individual's body weight and both groups were told to maintain their usual level of physical activity.

After three months the researchers compared the participants' cholesterol scores, glucose levels, and HbA1C (hemoglobin A1C) scores (a measure of diabetic control), from the start and end of the study and found that there were no changes in HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol), LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol), or triglycerides, regardless of whether the particant ate 12 eggs per week or less than 2. Nor were there any changes in glucose levels or HbA1C scores.

Even better, those in the High Egg group reported being happier with the variety of food choices in their diet as well as feeling more satisfied after meals.

What this means for you

It's pretty clear that in the context of an overall healthy diet, you can eat eggs even if you are diabetic or pre-diabetic. Don't douse them in butter, but by all means scramble or fry them for breakfast using a spray of olive oil instead. Eating eggs may even help you lose more weight, if that is your goal.

First posted: April 8, 2015