Recently, The DOCTORS Show invited my colleague Andrew Freeman, MD and me to participate in “The Great Food Debate”. In this segment, our debate focuses on eggs. I don’t know about you, but I love eggs. Growing up, my grandmother would cook up my favorite breakfast: eggs over easy, with lots (and lots) of pepper…absolutely delicious!
However, over the years, eggs have been beaten up (in more ways than one); some of my colleagues, including Dr. Freeman, believe that eggs are unhealthy because they contain too much cholesterol and choline. Some studies even report that too many eggs cause diabetes!
As it turns out, the amount of cholesterol in egg yolks (150-160 mg) is about 50% lower than it was back in the 70s (due in part to changes in hen’s feed and accuracy of cholesterol measurements). Choline is an important nutrient that is not only necessary for brain function, but also improves mood and suppresses anxiety. In addition, choline reduces levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that can be toxic to our heart and blood vessels.
With regard to the concern that eggs “cause” diabetes, let me paraphrase a recent paper the nicely summarizes the evidence from multiple studies. That is, consuming 6-12 eggs weekly along with following heart-healthy eating patterns has NO effect on cholesterol, fasting glucose or C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation).
What egg critics fail to point out are that egg whites contain a healthy content of protein and minerals (magnesium, selenium) whereas the yolk is enriched in vitamins (A, B12, D, E, Folate, K), minerals (calcium, iron, selenium, zinc) and carotenoid pigments (lutein, zeaxanthin) that reduce risk of eye diseases such as cataracts.
Overall, I place no restriction on egg whites, and the only time I recommend egg yolk restriction is for my patients with very high cholesterol levels (LDL levels above 160 mg/dL). Otherwise, go enjoy your favorite omelet (mine is spinach, onions, mushroom and tomato)!
Dr. Miller is a Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine, University of Maryland School of Medicine and Author of “Heal Your Heart: The Positive Emotions Prescription to Reduce and Prevent Heart Disease “ (Rodale Press).