Are eggs good for us? Scientists tackled the debate in a new way

A comprehensive picture of health benefits of eggs.

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Eggs are a rich source of bioactive nutrients and dietary compounds with roles in regulating metabolic health, lipid metabolism, immune function, and hematopoiesis. The composition of egg white and egg yolk fractions are distinct.

In a new study, Catherine J. Andersen, associate professor of nutritional sciences in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, offers a broader perspective on the nutritional outcomes of egg consumption in healthy young adults.

Andersen and her collaborators conducted a more comprehensive, clinically focused study that considered many health measurements a doctor would look at during a routine physical. They investigated the effects of consuming an egg-free diet, three egg whites per day, and three whole eggs per day for four weeks on comprehensive clinical metabolic, immune, and hematologic profiles in young, healthy adults in a 16-week randomized crossover intervention trial.

Andersen says, “It helps to provide a comprehensive picture of the effects of egg intake in a young, healthy population utilizing standard, routine clinical biomarkers. We believe that allows for greater translation to the general public.”

Three egg whites, three entire eggs, and no eggs were all compared in the study. The eggs were available for participants to prepare, whichever they wished.

Andersen discovered that those who regularly consumed whole eggs had significantly higher blood levels of choline, an essential vitamin in egg yolks. Increases in TMAO, a metabolite connected to heart disease, have been linked to choline intake. However, despite increases in choline, Andersen’s study discovered that TMAO remained unchanged in this cohort.

Andersen says, “That’s the best-case scenario. We want to have rich amounts of this important nutrient, but not increase this metabolite that could potentially promote cardiovascular disease.”

According to the study, inflammation and blood cholesterol levels did not change negatively. Additionally, they discovered that consuming whole eggs had a less detrimental effect on diabetes risk factor markers than egg whites.

When eating whole eggs, participants’ diets were generally higher in nutrients. They had higher hematocrit levels, which indicate the density of red blood cells in the blood and can be diminished in anemia.

Andersen said“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. I think that’s important because if you see one less positive marker change, you can see, perhaps in context, beneficial shifts in others.”

Participants in the study were both male and female. Approximately 50% of the female subjects used an oral combination birth control pill. Andersen was able to examine any variations in the nutritional results between women who were on the pill and those who weren’t.

There were several changes in this sub-group that scientists noticed, albeit none of them were statistically significant.

The blood samples from female individuals who did not take the tablet showed higher rises in the total cholesterol to HDL-cholesterol ratio, which is thought to be a heart disease risk factor.

That was surprising and unexpected. Because hormonal birth control pills frequently cause undesirable metabolic alterations. However, it appeared to respond to eggs in this instance more protectively.

In addition, blood monocyte counts were higher in female individuals who did not take the pill than in those who did. The body’s initial line of defense against pathogens includes monocytes. Interestingly, alterations in clinical immunological profiles brought about by whole egg consumption coincided with several clinical HDL measurements independent of medication use.

Journal Reference:

  1. Catherine J. Andersen, Lindsey Huang, Fangyi Zhai et al. Consumption of Different Egg-Based Diets Alters Clinical Metabolic and Hematological Parameters in Young, Healthy Men and Women. Nutrients. DOI: 10.3390/nu15173747
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