Eggs are good for your health, study reveals, but how many?

The health benefits, or dangers, of eggs has meandered wildly in past decades – with some studies saying they are too high in cholesterol and others finding they are high in good cholesterol.

So what does the latest research say about the health – or otherwise – of eggs?

For egg lovers, there’s good news – and especially for your heart. A study conducted in China three years ago demonstrated a significantly lower risk of heart and stroke in those who ate an egg a day compared to those who consumed them less frequently.

Now, scientists have cracked the code (and no doubt many eggs) as to why that occurs. And the answer does indeed revolve around cholesterol – good and bad.

A study conducted by the same group involved in the earlier research has identified 24 metabolites associated with the consumption of eggs, and zeroed in on a protein in blood called apolipoprotein A1.

Apolipoprotein A1 is a building block of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), which is known by laypeople as good cholesterol. Not only is HDL a good cholesterol in and of itself, it also does a very good job of clearing away low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which we know as bad cholesterol.

The good guys

The good guys – HDL molecules – absorb the bad guys – LDL molecules – and carry them to the liver, where they are flushed from the body.

These benefits were borne out in the new study, for which the researchers recruited 4778 participants from the China Kadoorie Biobank – 3401 had a cardiovascular disease, 1377 did not.

Using a technique known as targeted nuclear magnetic resonance, the researchers measured 225 metabolites in plasma samples taken from the participants’ blood.

As the name suggests, metabolites are substances that are involved in the process of metabolism, which involves the body breaking down food and other chemicals, and converting them to energy. Metabolites are either used in the process, or produced by the process.

Some of these metabolites work to benefit the body, while others are markers of harm being done to the body – another internal ‘good versus evil’ battle. As well as identifying 14 metabolites that were linked to heart disease, the researchers found that participants who ate fewer eggs “had lower levels of beneficial metabolites and higher levels of harmful ones in their blood, compared to those who ate eggs more regularly”.

Positive signs

The study’s author, Canqing Yu, associate professor at the department of epidemiology and biostatistics at Peking University, said: “Together, our results provide a potential explanation for how eating a moderate amount of eggs can help protect against heart disease.”

Assoc. Prof. Yu did add a caveat, though: “More studies are needed to verify the causal roles that lipid metabolites play in the association between egg consumption and the risk of cardiovascular disease.”

But the signs are positive. In China, the dietary recommendation is for an egg a day, but the average consumption is lower than that. It’s the same in Australia, where we each consume an average of 249 eggs per year.

So if you love eggs and you’re averaging fewer than one per day, the good news is you can add a few more to your diet and it will likely be doing you good, rather than harm.

Would you average an egg a day? Have you been perplexed by the science around eggs and whether they are good for you or bad? Share your thoughts int hge comments section below.

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