Eggs and the Risk of Diabetes
Eggs are another food that’s undergoing a long-overdue reputation makeover. Once reviled for their alleged contribution to high cholesterol levels, eggs are now emerging as something of a health food. For one thing, they are a source of complete protein. Eggs contain all of the nine essential amino acids the body needs. Many foods supply protein, but few sources are able to provide all the essential amino acids in one convenient package. For another, their contribution to blood cholesterol levels is negligible. Although they are certainly a source of dietary cholesterol—and cholesterol is associated with atherosclerosis, the underlying cause of most heart disease—eggs do not deserve their high-cholesterol reputation.
To be clear, cholesterol is an indispensable nutrient. We all need some. In fact, it’s so important, the body has a robust mechanism for making its own supply. And that’s where the misunderstanding comes in. We used to think that dietary sources of cholesterol were problematic, because doctors were concerned about lowering people’s cholesterol levels. But we now know that dietary sources only account for about one-quarter of one’s blood cholesterol levels. The rest is largely determined by your genetics—how good you are at generating cholesterol in the liver and other tissues.
Modern statin drugs have proven effective at significantly lowering people’s blood cholesterol levels—and reducing heart disease risk—because they interfere with this within-the-body generation of cholesterol. So eggs are no longer viewed by most nutritionists as suspect. In fact, new research suggests that eating eggs may even help prevent another serious, common disease: type 2 diabetes.
A recent study conducted in Finland concluded that egg consumption is associated with a lower risk of diabetes, and better blood sugar control. Men in the study who ate four eggs per week had better blood sugar levels, and lower risk of diabetes, than men who ate just one egg weekly.
Jyrki K Virtanen et al. Egg consumption and risk of incident type 2 diabetes in men: the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition., March 2015 DOI: 10.3945/%u200Bajcn.114.104109