A study published in the April 2008 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition  suggests an association between high egg consumption and all-cause mortality in male physicians. The researchers did note that there was no relationship between egg consumption and cardiovascular disease risk, as has been shown in a number of previous studies. So what did eggs do? We don’t know since all that was references was total mortality, not any specific cause. But one should note that the men who ate the most eggs were older, fatter, ate more vegetables but less breakfast cereal, and were more likely to drink alcohol, smoke and less likely to exercise — all factors that can affect one’s risk of death. But the authors did title their paper “Egg consumption in relation to cardiovascular disease and mortality: the Physicians’ Health Study.”
As noted in an accompanying editorial by Dr. Robert Eckel, co-chair of the Committee on Cardiovascular and Metabolic Diseases “The study suffers from the lack of detailed dietary information that may confound the interpretation, such as patterns of dietary intake of saturated fat and trans fats.”  This is a significant point, given that one might think that doctors who are fatter, ate less breakfast cereal, and were more likely to drink alcohol, smoke and less likely to exercise might eat their eggs with foods high in saturated fat (a finding reported nine years ago in the Health Professionals’ Follow-Up Study by Hu et al. ).
The investigators reported that among male physicians with diabetes, any egg consumption was associated with a greater risk of all-cause mortality; however, the researchers did not comment on the level of diabetes control of the subjects. Poor diabetic control is associated with an increased risk of a number of chronic diseases that also effect mortality. Once again, those who are fatter, eat less breakfast cereal, and are more likely to drink alcohol, smoke and less likely to exercise might also be the ones with the poorest diabetes control.
So let me suggest that every older, overweight, inactive, smoking and drinking doctor who doesn’t know how to take care of himself eat only six eggs a week until you get your act together and yourself in better shape. If you are diabetic get your diabetes under control and your A1C levels below 7% so that your plasma lipoproteins aren’t atherogenic and a risk for heart disease. Believe me, if you don’t change you’ve got more to worry about than how many eggs you eat a week.
On the other hand, if you’re healthy then this study says eggs have no effect on heart disease or stroke risk and you can include them in your diet. When you do, you get the choline that’s probably missing from your diet, you get high quality protein, satiety so you’re not so hungry and a spectrum of essential and functional nutrients. The evidence is clear, an egg a day (or 7-10 a week) is not a risk for heart disease.
1. Djoussé L and Gaziano JM. Egg consumption in relation to cardiovascular disease and mortality: the Physicians’ Health Study. AJCN. 2008; 87;964-9.
2. Eckel R. Egg consumption in relation to cardiovascular disease and mortality: the story gets more complex. AJCN. 2008; 87:799-800.
3. Hu et al. A prospective study of egg consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease in men and women JAMA. 1999;281:1387-1394.