Thursday, October 18, 2012

Eggs, and Things [the Media Says] Scientists Say.

An egg.  I usually make mine over easy, but this is okay too.  Source.
So,

It is all over the headlines recently.  Eating egg yolks is as bad for you as smoking.  An egg yolk is equivalent to five kicks to the groin.  The Ministry of National Defense has begun studying mechanisms by which egg yolks could be weaponised.  Scientists postulate the dinosaurs went extinct from eating too many cholesterol-filled eggs.  For the record, I can't believe that any of these statements would be published, but fire up Google, and see for yourself.  I'd like to give my two cents on the matter, and hopefully offer some clarity to my tens of regular readers (by the by, I'm sure you're looking quite dapper in top hat and shined monocle).

The contention of these articles, and the University of Western Ontario's medical study, is that eating eggs (with yolks), and smoking are roughly equivalent in terms of the damage they do to your arteries.  The primary criticism (and I can't believe only this is the primary criticism), is that eggs and cigarettes damage arteries in completely different ways.  Cholesterol (which eggs contain) causes plaques to build up on arterial walls, while smoking inflames arterial walls.  The effect is ... roughly  the same.  I would like to levy a series of criticisms, if you will allow me.

First, from all the reading I have completed on the subject, as well as a lecture from a chemist on the subject, ingesting cholesterol in food does not necessarily directly affect the amount of cholesterol in your blood.  Many of you may have heard of good cholesterol and bad cholesterol.  This refers to high-density lipoprotein (HDL, "good" cholesterol) and low density lipoprotein (LDL, "bad" cholesterol).  These represent the way that the body moves lipids (i.e. "fats") around in your water-based body.  HDL is called good, because it is the form your body manufactures when it is moving fat to the liver for utilization, so the higher the rate of HDL in your bloodstream, the better.  Within reason, of course.

So cholesterol is involved in carrying fat around in your body.  Does that mean that eating cholesterol will increase your blood cholesterol?  Let's take a quotation directly from Wikipedia.  I am not saying that Wikipedia is infallible, but this statement supports everything I have read on the subject:

"... most ingested cholesterol is esterified and esterified cholesterol is poorly absorbed. The body also compensates for any absorption of additional cholesterol by reducing cholesterol synthesis. For these reasons, cholesterol intake in food has little, if any, effect on total body cholesterol content or concentrations of cholesterol in the blood."

So there you have it, ingesting cholesterol does not directly affect your cholesterol blood levels.  Though, hang on a moment.  The study did find that the ingestion of egg yolks correlates with high cholesterol.  This is a fact, and I will not dispute it.  However, it correlates, meaning egg yolk consumption usually goes hand in hand with high cholesterol.  It does not say that egg yolk ingestion causes high cholesterol, but if it does, it shouldn't.  So, why would this be the case?  Well, the doctors running the study did not bother checking for external factors that may also influence blood cholesterol.  This would admittedly be difficult to do for over 1000 people.  So, here's my hypothesis: perhaps when people are eating egg yolks, they're not just eating what is pictured at the head of this article, perhaps they're eating something that more closely resembles the following.



So maybe, just maybe the blame does not belong to the egg yolks, perhaps it is what is eaten alongside the egg yolks.  Perhaps a patient's blood cholesterol levels are high because of all the extra lipids the body is forced to deal with when one ingests such a feast, and not the cholesterol in the egg yolks.  And maybe the media likes to run with a catchy headline, and might not want to do all the fact checking they should.

So eat eggs [, damn it].  According to wolframalpha.com (a thoroughly wonderful site), two fried eggs have 137 calories, 16% of your daily recommended fat (you do need a certain amount of fat to live well), and 19% of your daily recommended protein.  It's a good start to your day, just not alongside everything pictured above.

NM

P.S.  I swear to various deities, if I hear ONE more person say "Well, first they said eggs were good for you, then eggs are bad, I just don't know what to believe!"  Think critically, and read the full article.  Not just the headline.

P.P.S. Edit on 2013-11-25, link to the article.  What an article.  Though admittedly, I'm just guessing that people who order an egg white omelettes are probably watching their fat intake.  It's a wild, crazy guess. 
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