Wednesday, August 22, 2012

To Yolk Or Not To Yolk...There are lots of questions.

If you haven't seen it yet, I am sure that in the coming weeks you will see the results of a recent study in the publication Atherosclerosis.  The main stream media has already jumped all over this, beginning with the L.A. Times.  The basic gist of the study was to determine the effects of consumption of whole eggs, more specifically the yolk, relative to heart disease and compared to smoking cigarettes.  The authors deemed that consuming 2-3 eggs per week had the same effect as smoking multiple packs of cigarettes each week.  The problem is that the study is flawed, really flawed.

I am not trying to pick a big fight with the authors of the study, but the framework of this study has many holes in that only allow for the results to be considered "possible," but in some ways "coincidental."  First of all, no study, no matter how well they limit variability, is flawless and conclusive.  Every study has to be proven multiple times over to be considered widely accepted (unless of course you pander to the main stream media).  This is just one study.  Recall that other studies have shown the complete opposite of what these authors have concluded.  Second, the mainstream media extracted one line from the authors and made it "fact."  The problem is that the quote was pulled out of context (shocker), and in the same section of the study's conclusion, the authors said clearly that more research needed to be completed and better controls needed to be established.  They were basically saying this was a first attempt at determining the real long term effects of egg consumption.  So, I'll give them a little credit for at least realizing their limitations.

But the authors aren't off the hook.  Even knowing the limitations of their research, they still made claims that just aren't backed up solidly by their data.  Sure people who generally ate more eggs over a longer period of time had higher levels of plaque build-up in their arteries.  But how do we know that the eggs were the real cause?  The study also showed in their data that HDL (good cholesterol), LDL (bad), triglycerides, and total serum cholesterol were all basically the same.  So let's see here...all of the markers for atherosclerosis were all nearly identical across groups, but those who ate the most eggs had higher levels of atherosclerosis.  How do we know it was the eggs?  We don't because we don't know anything else about the diets of the groups. They could have eaten red meat three times a day and we don't know that.  They could have consumed a stick of butter a day, and we don't know.  But, it has to be the eggs.  (If you haven't picked up on my sarcasm yet, you should probably stop reading.)

So basically, the authors asked a bunch of people how many eggs they ate each week and then analyzed how much plaque build-up they had, and then drew a conclusion that eggs and cigarette smoking have the same result.  There was no mention of exercise habits, family history, other food items regularly consumed, or a number of other key questions that could vary the results greatly.

So before you hand all of the extra eggs in the house to the spiteful teenager next door so he can wreak havoc on cars driving by, realize that not only is this study inherently flawed, there are also a multitude of other studies that say the exact opposite or say that there is no conclusive evidence out there.  But those results aren't intriguing to the main stream media.

Oh yeah, and one last thing...the group that ate the most eggs also had the lowest BMI.  Just something to consider.