A study published in the journal Atherosclerosis last week suggested that eating eggs can be almost as damaging to you heart as smoking cigarettes. Maybe you’ve seen the press coverage? It was all over the media last week and, needless to say, it kept us pretty busy at the Egg Nutrition Center. First thing we did was contact seven cardiovascular researchers for their perspectives on the study; three of the seven are among the leading epidemiology researchers in the country. All pointed out a number of flaws in the study design, ranging from:
- “this was a cross sectional study and, as such, it is impossible to reach a case-and-effect conclusion”
- “there didn’t appear to be any dietary control for other dietary constituents (besides eggs)—a fatal flaw”
- “the failure (of the researchers) to adjust…for age is a major if not fatal flaw”
- “the subjects were already sick…this is the classic setup for reporting bias that could lead to exactly the results that they found in that those who were sickest reported the highest egg intakes…”.
And on and on. Most of the researchers we queried wondered how the study was accepted for publication considering its flaws. It should be noted that the lead researcher on this project has had issues with eggs before. A couple of years ago he was quoted as saying that an egg was worse for you than a Kentucky Fried Chicken Double Down sandwich (a breadless sandwich with three pieces of fried chicken; 540 kcals; almost 40 gms fat; 1400 mg sodium). A dubious statement, to say the least, but one that may help explain a pre-conception the author has about eggs that may have carried over into the recent study.
It is always a shame when studies of this nature garner so much media attention. While it would have been nice for reporters to have done their homework first and uncovered some of the flaws and biases associated with this study before running with it, I suppose that the headline (Eggs are as Bad as Cigarettes) was just too tantalizing to pass up.
At the Egg Nutrition Center we’ll continue to study the effects of eggs on human health as we’ve always done, and we’ll let the chips fall where they may regarding the results of the projects we fund. We adhere to the Guidelines for Industry Funded Research and request that all investigators who work with us do the same. We realize that not every study will yield a positive result; that’s the nature of science. The key is to support well- designed, well-controlled studies so that you can feel good about the results, whatever they happen to be. In the case of the recent Atherosclerosis paper, I’m not so sure that’s what we got.
Mitch Kanter, Ph.D. is the Executive Director of the Egg Nutrition Center.