Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket—Or On One Plate!


Eggs are one of the most frustrating foods. As a dietitian, I can’t tell you how much time I’ve spent telling people that eating eggs is OK, and that it’s really the saturated fat in food that’s the culprit, not the cholesterol. But it seems that once people finally get comfortable with the fact that eggs are highly nutritious and can be part of a heart-healthy diet, researchers give us some bad news.

As David Spero mentioned in his post last week about breakfast (“What’s for Breakfast”[1]), a new study out of Harvard Medical School has given us reason to pause. In this study, which involved looking at data from two large studies, the Physician’s Health Study and the Women’s Health Study, the researchers found that men who ate one egg every day had a 60% increase in risk for Type 2 diabetes, and women who ate one egg a day had a 77% increased risk. Men who ate less than one egg per week had only a 9% increased risk of getting diabetes and women a 6% increased risk. It didn’t matter whether people were following a high-carb or a low-carb diet, or had a high cholesterol level or a high body-mass index[2] (BMI), either.

Of course, with any study, there are certain limitations. For example, in this study, the researchers didn’t do repeat blood glucose and insulin[3] measurements. This was an observational study, and some of the data was self-reported (meaning that the researchers relied on the study subjects to recall and report information). Also, most of the participants were white and most were health-care professionals, so it’s hard to generalize the findings to a wider, more diverse population.

And, as it often goes with research on a particular topic, previous studies with eggs have shown varying results. A study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association in 1999 examined the link between egg intake and risk of heart disease and stroke[4] in men and women (using some of the same data that was used in this new study, by the way). The findings? The intake of one egg per day was unlikely to impact the risk of heart disease and stroke in men and women. And while the subjects who had diabetes had a higher risk of heart disease, the conclusions were that “further research is warranted.”

Yet another study, done by the same researchers who did the newly-published study, found that men with diabetes who ate eggs during the 20-year study period were twice as likely to die as men without diabetes. But, as it turns out, the men with diabetes were older, heavier, more likely to smoke and drink alcohol, and less likely to exercise[5] and eat vegetables than their counterparts without diabetes. So, is it really eggs that are the problem?

It’s possible, despite the other factors. Maybe dietary cholesterol really is more dangerous than we thought. It seems like we don’t know enough, though, to draw any conclusions. Once again, eggs are frustrating!

Egg Facts
Here’s the lowdown on eggs. One large egg contains:

Here are some more facts about eggs:

But, in spite of all of eggs’ good qualities, it might be wise for people who are at risk for diabetes and those who have diabetes to go easy on the eggs for now (about one per week). Talk with your health-care provider about your risk for heart disease, and make sure you know your “numbers” (total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and triglycerides[10]). In the meantime, if you’re an egg lover and can’t keep your intake to just one or two per week, consider switching over to egg substitutes or egg whites, which are cholesterol-free.

Eggs can still be part of a healthful diet and, hopefully, we’ll soon learn “eggs-actly” what it is about eggs that may not be so good for us.

  1. “What’s for Breakfast”:
  2. body-mass index:
  3. insulin:
  4. stroke:
  5. exercise:
  6. iron:
  7. zinc:
  8. macular degeneration:
  9. cataracts:
  10. triglycerides:

Source URL:

Amy Campbell: Amy Campbell is the author of Staying Healthy with Diabetes: Nutrition and Meal Planning and a frequent contributor to Diabetes Self-Management and Diabetes & You. She has co-authored several books, including the The Joslin Guide to Diabetes and the American Diabetes Association’s 16 Myths of a “Diabetic Diet,” for which she received a Will Solimene Award of Excellence in Medical Communication and a National Health Information Award in 2000. Amy also developed menus for Fit Not Fat at Forty Plus and co-authored Eat Carbs, Lose Weight with fitness expert Denise Austin. Amy earned a bachelor’s degree in nutrition from Simmons College and a master’s degree in nutrition education from Boston University. In addition to being a Registered Dietitian, she is a Certified Diabetes Educator and a member of the American Dietetic Association, the American Diabetes Association, and the American Association of Diabetes Educators. Amy was formerly a Diabetes and Nutrition Educator at Joslin Diabetes Center, where she was responsible for the development, implementation, and evaluation of disease management programs, including clinical guideline and educational material development, and the development, testing, and implementation of disease management applications. She is currently the Director of Clinical Education Content Development and Training at Good Measures. Amy has developed and conducted training sessions for various disease and case management programs and is a frequent presenter at disease management events.

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