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is eating too many eggs a problem?
March 5, 2012 8:37 AM   Subscribe

36 eggs in a week. that can't be healthy. or is it?

I'm currently using swole.me to set up diet plans for myself. they mostly work great but put a huge emphasis on eggs. on some days I'm supposed to eat ten or twelve eggs on a 2500cal diet. (not on all, I just generate new plans for every day to shake things up.)

I've been googling around and finding lots of bodybuilding forums in which people claim the mass intake of eggs isn't anything to be concerned about. here's a good example from reddits fitness faq:

Eggs? Don't they raise blood cholesterol, and cause heart disease and death?

If you're an otherwise healthy person, then: No. That idea was raised by a number of studies from the 1950s, which have now been soundly refuted. Eggs do raise LDL-cholesterol, but there are two types of LDL cholesterol, and eggs raise the large-fluffy LDL type, not the oxidized LDL (small type) that is associated with atherosclerosis. Additionally, it raises HDL, and HDL:LDL ratio is a bigger risk indicator than total cholesterol. Also, blood (serum) cholesterol levels do not detectably rise due to dietary cholesterol. Most studies indicate that eggs decrease (or, at worst, have no effect) the risk of atherosclerosis. There is both scientific and anecdotal evidence supporting this idea. Furthermore, high cholesterol is not associated with the actual risk of heart attacks and cholesterol is essential for many bodily functions including metabolism and brain function (your brain is largely cholesterol). Links to a number of studies is here. So, the evidence says, you can eat 8 eggs a day (for example), with no effect on your blood cholesterol or risk for heart disease. However, if you are not a healthy person -- specifically, if you are fat with an obesogenic diet, and at risk of diabetes -- eggs can increase risk for vascular disease.


so by all accounts I should not worry. but I do. it's the internet and it's tough to know what's bro-science vs. actually true.

what do you think? is eating too many eggs a problem?
posted by krautland to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm all for eggs, I think they're an essential food on a diet. I'm currently on a keto diet (reddit.com/r/keto) and eggs play heavily in my diet.
posted by smitt at 8:40 AM on March 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


I don't think the eggs thing is resolved. If you have a family history of high cholesterol then maybe stay away just in case?

Also, the foods generated by swole.me are pretty random. Have you set up a breakfast food list that eliminates stuff like chicken, beef, etc? If so, it is throwing eggs at you because other traditional breakfast protein sources like sausage and bacon are so high in fat compared to protein the meal generator just can't make them fit as easily. If you have a separate breakfast food list you would probably get a less egg-biased diet if you let the menu give you chicken, turkey, cottage cheese and what not for breakfast.
posted by schroedinger at 8:42 AM on March 5, 2012


Eggs are a great source of proteins where eating an equivalent amount of meat might be impractical. You can look out for the Omega-3 eggs (I believe even a WalMart will have these in stock); they'll have less cholesterol and more of the healthy fats that you want.
posted by chrisfromthelc at 8:46 AM on March 5, 2012


Cholesterol in an egg is almost 100% contained in the yolk which is why I, and a number of other lifters, use egg whites and limit the yolks. I usually go 3:1 whites to yolk.

I eat approximately 21 eggs a week and my cholesterol hasn't changed since I started doing this a couple of years ago. My family has some risk factors relating to cholesterol, so I do get it checked, but overall the science seems to suggest that any potential risk is mitigated by limiting yourself largely to whites.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 8:47 AM on March 5, 2012


So, I'm a Ph.D. student in the life sciences and I'm currently several hours in to a lit search. I'm not a Ph.D. yet and I'm certainly no expert on diet... but I am fairly experienced in doing lit searches.

I've tried to find a solid answer to this question before - is eating unlimited eggs OK if you have normal cholesterol? - and unfortunately the scientific community just does not agree on an answer. Yes, you will be able to find papers stating that eating that many eggs will not lead to an increase in cholesterol or heart disease risk or whatever, but you will also be able to find papers that state the opposite. There is no consensus at this time among scientists.
posted by Cygnet at 8:49 AM on March 5, 2012 [14 favorites]


10-12 eggs a day is not recommendable simply due to being a culinary fail. Can't you mix it up a bit? This is what protein shakes were invented for.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 8:57 AM on March 5, 2012


You might find this report of a man who ate 25 eggs a day interesting, as well as the letters to the editor it generated.
posted by TedW at 9:03 AM on March 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


Here's a review from the British Nutrition Foundation: "Most health and heart advisory bodies in the UK, Europe and elsewhere no longer set limits on the number of eggs people should eat, provided they are consumed as part of a healthy diet that is not high in SFA."

That said: Yes, why not mix it up?
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 9:05 AM on March 5, 2012


Eggs are really contested at the moment; I don't think you're going to get a definitive answer.

My understanding is that the cholesterol in egg [yolks] isn't the real problem - it's the saturated fat. I wouldn't eat 12 eggs in a day or 36 eggs in a week. I would happily eat 3 egg [yolks] in a day, or 7 eggs over a week, and as many egg whites as I want too (which is sometimes quite a lot; I like egg-white omelets.)
posted by insectosaurus at 9:17 AM on March 5, 2012


You might find this report of a man who ate 25 eggs a day interesting, as well as the letters to the editor it generated.

TedW, it appears that man may have eaten only eggs. Very different.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:31 AM on March 5, 2012


I've been on a weight lifting program for the last 6 weeks. During this time I've eaten at least 5 eggs + a day. When I say eggs, I really mean egg whites. They are super cheap and full of protein. My blood work does not show an increase in cholesterol.
posted by bleucube at 9:40 AM on March 5, 2012


Eating to much of any one thing is a problem, IMO. Plus, eating that many eggs might give you certain undesirable side effects. Substitute in some other form of protein and fat.
posted by yarly at 10:07 AM on March 5, 2012


Lifter here. I eat about three to four dozen whole eggs a week. As another anecdote, my cholesterol is very good. I also eat plenty of animal fats in addition to most of my protein from local, well-raised animals.

However, anecdotes aren't all that helpful. I've done a literature search on the subject and yes, there are mixed results but one thing stood out: the existence of a subset of people who respond adversely to dietary cholesterol. So basically, even if dietary cholesterol doesn't affect the serum cholesterol of most people there is a small possibility it will still affect yours.

With this in mind, I say go for it and get your levels tested in a few weeks/months.
posted by Loto at 10:10 AM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


The opinion on impact of food choices on cholesterol are widely up in the air these days. As a non-lifter who's making an effort to live lower-carb I'm finding myself leaning on eggs quite a lot so this is something I've concerned myself with too.

Unfortunately this does to some extent come down to "it depends." As Loto says, some people do react more to dietary cholesterol. The modern consensus seems to be that it's a far smaller component than genetics but if you're on the edge that small component could amount to a lot.

You can probably help offset the risk a lot by using good eggs. If the stuff you can get at your farmer's market have nice orange yolks, great, or get omega-boosted stuff at the grocery. They taste better anyway, and if you're improving your HDL and LDL at the same time then you're addressing the ratio that recent opinions rank higher than absolute individual numbers.

The downside is that I have 0 faith that the pre-cooked hard-boiled eggs available in the store are anything other than the cheapest caged-farm-raised they can get. So you have to do them yourself. If you have a pressure cooker I've recently discovered that gets the best easy-to-peel result with fresh eggs.

Home cholesterol tests have gotten exceptionally cheap and for your purposes they'll do a good job of tracking changes. So long as the results are consistent you're less concerned with exact results - you just want to see if your cholesterol gets worse on this diet. So even if the absolute numbers aren't very good you can test before you start this diet and see if it registers a shift.

My experience was that my cholesterol improved, though that seemed to be more an increased HDL result (probably from more regular activity) than any change in LDL.
posted by phearlez at 10:28 AM on March 5, 2012


Actually, IAmBroom, in the letters to the editor, the author of the report clarifies that the man in the study did not eat only eggs.

He says, "The patient's dietary history, confirmed by personnel at the retirement community, revealed that his diet was general, consisting of fruits, vegetables, cereals, and meats, but the quantity of these other foods obviously was quite limited. Because of this, his physician had been treating him with vitamin supplements for many years, which may well explain the absence of nutritional deficiency."
posted by snowleopard at 11:27 AM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have been eating two or three dozen eggs a week during the year since I was hospitalized for pernicious anemia, mainly because of an uncontrollable craving for them, and my cholesterol is apparently fine (though my LDL registered 4330 at admission) and I don't "have even a trace of heart disease," according to my hematologist.

I may begin to understand why lifters eat them, because this has been the most sedentary year of my life, yet I've still managed to put on muscle, somehow. Last week when I was hugging my partner, she pulled back and put her hands around my upper arms, exclaiming "where did all this come from?"
posted by jamjam at 1:32 PM on March 5, 2012


I eat 14 egg _whites_ weekly and I weigh 145#. The only cardiologist I know would tell you it is a terrible idea to eat 36 egg yolks weekly. Last I heard the actual factual clinical evidence was a little ambiguous.
posted by bukvich at 2:49 PM on March 5, 2012


Hopefully you're getting protein from other sources as well, and trying to have a varied diet, blah blah. Stay away from processed snack foods.

As with anything else, it's important to keep tabs on how it's working for _you_. Are you keeping a food journal? If so, you should also keep track of stuff like energy levels, and note down anything that feels weird or bad. Get semi-regular blood tests.

For myself, I was eating about two dozen eggs per week for a few months, and had a great blood lipid profile.
posted by Elcee at 3:06 PM on March 5, 2012


I don't think there are many studies with an egg intake as high as you mention. This article for example mentions a study that put 2.5 eggs per week as the "high intake" group. Even if there were consensus about the healthfulness of eggs, that doesn't say very much about the healthfulness of so many eggs.

As far as heart disease goes, this is what Harvard's Nutritionsource says about it:
Recent research has shown that moderate egg consumption—up to one a day—does not increase heart disease risk in healthy individuals (1, 2) and can be part of a healthy diet. [...]
This research doesn't give the green light to daily three-egg omelets. While a 2008 report from the ongoing Physicians' Health Study supports the idea that eating an egg a day is generally safe for the heart, it also suggests that going much beyond that could increase the risk for heart failure later in life.

(source).
posted by davar at 4:14 PM on March 5, 2012


Not a nutritional point, but a comfort one -- eggs are pretty constipating. Make sure you're gettng plenty of fiber and water in your diet as well.
posted by elizeh at 8:35 PM on March 5, 2012


Even back when the lipid hypothesis (dietary saturated fat -> atherosclerosis and heart disease) was beginning, dietary cholesterol was never much of a concern. Saturated fat was demonized due to certain statistical assocations and biomechanisms, but in fact many of these associations are explained well by other variables such as health consciousness. For example, the largest dietary source of saturated fat in the USA is grain-based desserts - so whenever you are doing an observational study on saturated fat, you are also measuring the effects of cakes, pies, etc. disproportionately.

Many saturated fats have been part of our diet as a species for hundreds of thousands of years and we have had plenty of time to adapt to them. A small fraction of the population may find their LDL/oxLDL increased by certain balances of saturated fats (e.g. dairy) so having your blood levels checked before and after any major dietary change is not a bad idea.

Dietary cholesterol may in fact have health benefits.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 8:40 PM on March 5, 2012


thanks for all your responses. I'm not in the US and cannot walk into a WalMart to get Omega eggs but all my eggs are free range here.
posted by krautland at 5:46 AM on March 6, 2012


How you cook them is also kind of important.
posted by P.o.B. at 2:58 PM on March 6, 2012


Thanks for the clarification, snowleopard. The responses made me think otherwise.
posted by IAmBroom at 6:10 PM on March 7, 2012


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