Good Eggs, Bad Eggs?

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Eggs and diabetes

For decades, eggs have been the subject of nutritional controversy. Studies touting their health benefits have gained attention, only to be followed by other studies warning of the dire consequences of eating them. Recently, eggs have been enjoying something of a critical revival, as the federal government’s Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee appears on the verge of scrapping its longtime recommendation to limit dietary cholesterol intake in the updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans set to be released this fall. A recent study, however, offers mixed news on eggs for people with — or at risk of developing — Type 2 diabetes.

Published earlier this month in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the study looked at 2,332 Finnish men between the ages of 42 and 60 who were initially surveyed and evaluated in the 1980s, then 4, 11, and 20 years later. During this follow-up period, 432 men developed Type 2 diabetes. Those participants who initially consumed the most eggs were found to be 38% less likely to develop diabetes than those who consumed the least eggs in the study — a difference between eating an average of about four eggs versus less than one egg per week. As noted in an article on the study in The Telegraph, the association between egg intake and diabetes risk stayed the same when factors such as physical activity levels, body-mass index, smoking status, and fruit and vegetable intake were taken into account. No benefit was seen, however, from eating more than four eggs per week.

The researchers for this study speculated that the benefits of egg consumption could be due to nutrients contained in eggs that affect glucose metabolism and low-grade inflammation. They warned, though, against recommending eggs for people who already have Type 2 diabetes, since they appear to increase the rate of heart disease in people who have already received a diagnosis.

The new study adds to a confusing and contradictory body of evidence regarding eggs and diabetes risk that has emerged in recent years. In 2008, a study published in the journal Diabetes Care found that greater egg consumption was associated with a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in both men and women. And just last fall, a study presented at the conference of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes found that among people with Type 2 diabetes, a diet rich in eggs led to more lasting fullness and reduced food cravings while having no negative effect on blood cholesterol levels. These effects were seen even though the study’s high-egg-intake and low-egg-intake groups ate the same amount of protein overall.

What’s your policy on eggs — have you eaten more or less of them as studies have suggested that they’re good or bad in certain ways, or have your habits stayed pretty much the same? Have you tried to split the difference between sources by including a moderate amount of eggs in your diet? Is there any outcome or recommendation that could convince you to significantly increase or decrease your egg intake? Leave a comment below!

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