by Sally Fallon Morell
Reprinted from upcoming Fall 2012 edition of Wise Traditions Journal
News of a study linking egg yolk consumption with heart disease hit the Internet and print media August 13, with sixty-five articles posted within a day of release, and over one hundred fifty articles by the time the egg bashing had played itself out. “Newly published research led by Dr. David Spence shows that eating egg yolks accelerates atherosclerosis in a manner similar to smoking cigarettes,” was the lead sentence in the articles.
Turns out this study, published in Atherosclerosis (2012 Aug 1. [Epub ahead of print] is one of the worst examples of junk science we’ve seen, carried out by doctors with ties to Pfizer Canada, AstraZeneca Canada and Merck Frosst Canada. Patients coming into Spence’s Canadian clinic with a recent stroke and transient ischemic attack were given a dietary recall questionnaire, from which the staff estimated their “egg-yolk years,” the number of egg yolks eaten multiplied over the number of years.
Not surprisingly, they found that older patients had more “egg-yolk years” than younger patients because they were. . . well. . . older. To be fair, the analysis was adjusted for age, but as author Zoe Harcombe points out in her blog on the study “the authors could have picked broccoli and measured broccoli years and the top quintile group of 70 year olds would have had 14 years more broccoli consumption than the 56 year olds.”
Oddly, the team fingered egg yolks when they were really asking about whole egg consumption, reporting “eggs” as “egg yolks,” presumably because we already “know” that there’s nothing wrong with egg whites. Of interest is the fact that the team found no correlation between egg consumption and cholesterol or triglyceride levels. Nor did they find an association with frequency of egg intake. This means that the association was driven primarily by the “number of years consumed” for eggs, after adjusting for age.
Another point: the actual egg consumption for all the men was less than one per day—the top consumers were eating an average of two-thirds of an egg per day, which provides less than a teaspoon of fat, most of it supposedly heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. We challenge researchers like Dr. Spence to look at the heart health and overall health of those who make a point of eating at least two egg yolks per day—along with bacon and butter as part of a good breakfast.
Sally Fallon Morell is the author of Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats. She is the founder of the Weston A. Price Foundation, a well respected nutrition education and advocacy non-profit. This article will appear in the Wise Traditions Journal in Fall of 2012.