Driving this morning I was listening to the radio and learned that the British Egg Information Service has been banned from resurrecting the ‘go to work on an egg’ ad campaign to celebrate the 50 year anniversary of the ‘British Lion’ mark that adorns eggs here in the UK.
Apparently, the Broadcasting Advertising Clearance Centre (BACC) adjudged that television commercials, featuring comedian Tony Hancock, could not be repeated because eating eggs every day went against the policy of encouraging people to eat a varied diet.
Oh, I see, but the adverts that encourage people to eat often nutritionally bereft, blood and insulin destabilising breakfast cereals, usually with added sugar and a stack of salt, are OK though?
And are eggs really that unhealthy anyway?
While eggs have been caught up in the anti-fat hysteria that most of us will be familiar with, the reality is that dietary saturated fat and cholesterol appear to have little or no bearing on health. This is thoroughly dealt with in my book The True You Diet. Besides, the most plentiful type of fat to be found in eggs is actually of the monounsaturated variety ” a type of fat associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.
Eggs are also a good source of protein, the dietary element that has been shown to have more appetite-sating potential than either carbohydrate or fat. Eggs are also relatively rich in vitamin B12, which is also potentially useful to vegetarians whose options for getting enough of this important nutrient are limited.
There are studies in the scientific literature which have linked egg-eating and heart disease. Such studies are ‘epidemiological’ in nature, and while they may show an association between two things, they cannot be used to prove that one causes the other. The association may be due to other factors ” known as confounding factors ” that have not been taken into consideration. The reason for pointing this out is that the studies linking egg-eating with an increased risk of heart disease have traditionally not taken into account confounding factors. When they are factored into the equation, the evidence suggests that intakes equivalent to an egg a day are not associated with an increased risk of heart disease in men and women free from diabetes . So, bearing this in mind, is it really so bad that we should be encouraged to ‘go to work on an egg’?
The original adverts may have been banned from TV, but are available for all to see courtesy of the internet. See:
1. Kritchevsky SB, et al. Egg consumption and coronary heart disease: an epidemiological overview. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2000;19(5):549-555
The truth about eggs – posted on 1 September 2002
Not so long ago the humble egg was viewed as a cheap, nutritious and versatile food. For many of us, the advertising slogan ‘go to work on an egg’ spawned in the 1960s lives long in our memories. However, since the days of such dizzy heights, the egg has experienced a spectacular fall from grace. Eggs, we are told, are full of cholesterol and saturated fat. As a result, many doctors and dieticians have warned us off eating them lest they clog our arteries and hasten our demise. Yet, despite the fact that eggs have made their way onto the nutritional blacklist, there is actually little evidence that they do us much harm at all. Scientific studies suggest that eggs might be the wholesome food advertisers cracked them up to be.
Eggs are composed of two main parts; the yolk and the white. While the white of the eggs is mainly protein, the egg yolk contains significant quantities of both saturated fat and cholesterol. Doctors have spent the last 20 years warning us of the hazards of eating these fats, in particular their ability to up the risk of heart disease. When individuals with raised cholesterol levels seek standard dietetic advice about what to do about it, they are often advised to give eggs a very wide berth indeed.
However, the idea that eggs increase risk of heart disease, like a lot of dietetic dogma, is based on assumptions that may turn out to have little basis in reality. It is, for instance, taken for granted that because eggs contain saturated fat and cholesterol, that eating them will raise the level of cholesterol in the bloodstream. However, scientific studies have generally failed to bear this out. One study found that feeding men and women two extra eggs each day for six weeks did not increase their cholesterol levels. In another study, men consuming four eggs a day for two months saw no change in their cholesterol scores.
Most doctors and dieticians see saturated fat as the major spectre in the diet. As eggs are rich in saturated fat, conventional wisdom dictates that eating less of them can only enhance our heart health and promote longevity. Several studies have looked at the effects of cutting back on fat on risk of heart disease and overall risk of death. At least three large studies show that low fat eating does not appear to reduce the risk of heart disease or improve longevity. Counter-intuitive though this may be, the bulk of the evidence does not support the notion that avoiding saturated fat, from eggs or other sources, is the key to a longer life.
Further evidence for the relatively benign effect of eggs came from two very large studies that examined specifically the link between egg consumption (up to one egg per day) and heart disease. The results of these studies show that non-diabetic men and women eating the most eggs were not at increased risk of heart disease or stroke compared to those eating the least. Despite a somewhat unhealthy reputation, the evidence suggests that it might not be such a bad idea to go to work on an egg after all.