The Essence of Egg

Fighting About Eggs: Bias All Around

Why is it so hard to get simple, unbiased information about nutrition and health? A story this week in the Washington Post should give you a clue. It’s all about eggs and the bias that people bring to the subject. When it comes to what we should eat, it seems that everyone has an ax to grind.

Whiplashed by Egg Advice

For years, dietary advice labeled eggs as bad actors – the biggest source of dietary cholesterol you can find. So health advice led folks to cut eggs from their breakfasts after the 1940s until the mid 1990s. At that point things leveled out and Americans were consuming a bit more than one egg every other day.

But now the trends are up. Part of it is that people are looking for more protein in their diets. Eggs fill that need pretty well. On top of that, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans deemphasized concerns about dietary cholesterol. Voila! Eggs are no longer dietary bad boys.

Then earlier this year, we had a bit more whiplash when a cross-sectional study found a modest association between egg consumption and cardiovascular risk. Hot headlines overshadowed cooler advice from nutrition experts. Eggs remain a nutrient-rich and healthful option when you eat them in moderation, said those cooler heads.

Stirring the Pot with Bias

Unfortunately, people who have an agenda just can’t give this subject a rest. The week, Neal Barnard and colleagues published an article in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine to say that Big Egg is trying rig the science of cholesterol in its favor. They have a meta-analysis to support their claims. Barnard says that results from studies with industry funding are more likely to downplay cholesterol risks.

Of course, Barnard has his own biases. He has made a career of promoting vegan diets, in which eggs are verboten. There’s nothing wrong with having a point of view. Both egg producers and vegan activists have their own.

Eggs are hardly the only subject in nutrition where people bring strong and differing biases. Fine. But we don’t favor using those biases as a substitute for facts. Instead, we favor objective curiosity about the truth. And the truth about eggs is that they are nutritious. Enjoy them in moderation if you like them. Avoid them if you don’t.

Click here for the story in the Washington Post and here for Barnard’s study.

The Essence of Egg, photograph © Brenda Gottsabend / flickr

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December 15, 2019