What You Really Need to Know About Eggs
Before we go any further: you can eat eggs.
by Lauren Slayton
You might have heard about an egg study going viral. Before we go any further: you can eat eggs. We understand clickbait, certain headlines draw us in and sometimes freak us out. But we also understand studies, how to read them and what conclusions to draw. We’re pretty sure the science writers do too, which makes the "Eat Eggs and Die" type of inflammatory headlines extra disappointing. Ready for your science lesson?
Type of Study
This latest egg study was published in JAMA was a pooled analysis. This means that data from various studies were pooled and hypotheses developed, and that’s all you can do from this data. You can’t draw broad conclusions without a controlled experiment.
Mark Hyman pointed out this same type of study suggested that hormones decrease women’s risk of heart disease. This was turned on its head with actual experiments. More often than not, conclusions from these pooled studies do not hold up in controlled experiments. Even the author of the egg study said, “the new study is an observational study, so it doesn't prove that cholesterol caused the increased risk of heart disease that the researchers documented.”
For this study, participants were given a food frequency questionnaire. In our initial sessions with clients, we do a similar exercise. We’ll get a rough idea of what clients eat. You know what inevitably happens? Clients go home, keep their daily, detailed food log and realize how inaccurate they were. We hear things like, “I actually have way more alcohol than I thought” and “I don’t eat as much fish as I said I did.”
As someone who used to work in research, self-reported intake recall is as accurate as self-reported body weights. Yup. And these participants weren’t given periodic questionnaires, they were given one questionnaire for 17 years. That’s like drawing conclusions about someone's fashion sense based on what they wore decades ago. Please, spare us.
An egg is not just an egg.
An egg is not just an egg. A GMO/antibiotic-fed, factory farmed, styrofoam container egg is very different than eggs from pasture-raised chickens. Pastured eggs have 21 times the omega 3s, seven times more vitamin E, 30% less cholesterol (we’re not anti-cholesterol, it’s needed to make hormones and vitamin D) and 25% less saturated fat. At Foodtrainers, our favorite egg brands are Vital Farms and Handsome Brook Farms, or get them from your local farmers market.
Some of the other authors of this study declared funding sources from multiple pharmaceutical companies, including but not limited to Glaxosmith Kline, AstraZeneca, and Bayer. These companies all manufacture drugs to treat heart conditions.
Yes, you can eat eggs. There are a lot of leaps and gaps in this reporting. As our NYU professors told us, a correlation does not prove causality. Always make sure you're getting your nutrition info from credentialed sources.
Lauren Slayton, MS RD is the founder of Foodtrainers and the author of the book The Little Book of Thin (Perigee 2014).