A recent question in The New York Times Well blog created some confusion by asking how many eggs you can (or should) eat. The answer was not eggs-actly correct.
Since one egg has the same amount of cholesterol as a Big Mac, it is unnecessary—even detrimental to your health—to consume eggs or egg products. One egg has more cholesterol than your body needs. In fact, any added dietary cholesterol is unnecessary because our bodies already produce more than the amount we require. An excess of cholesterol leads to heart disease, so it’s no surprise that a 2010 study in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology found that those who consume the most eggs have a 19 percent increased risk for cardiovascular problems.
What The New York Times blog fails to explain is that eating an occasional egg might not increase health risks for people already eating a high-fat, high-cholesterol diet—just as smoking an occasional cigar might not increase health risks for people already smoking cigarettes. But if people are already eating a healthful diet without any added dietary cholesterol, eggs can contribute to many problems in addition to heart disease. Recent studies in Atherosclerosis and the International Journal of Cancer show that egg consumption can also cause diabetes and even cancer.
The misperception surrounding the necessity of eggs has even spread to the courtroom. Unilever is suing Hampton Creek Foods for using the term “mayo” in relation to its egg-free Just Mayo condiment. The argument is that “mayonnaise” is defined as an egg-based product. However, removing the egg from mayonnaise also removes the cholesterol, a win-win. The lawsuit seems to be backfiring for Unilever by helping people realize that there are more healthful alternatives to Hellmann’s mayonnaise.
No matter what you call it, egg-free is the better option.
For more information about egg consumption and health, read and share our fact sheet: http://www.pcrm.org/pdfs/health/Nutrition-Fact-Sheets/Eggs-fact-sheet.pdf
This is a guest post from Physicians Committee member Garth Davis, M.D. Obesity Week is a huge scientific meeting joining experts in medical and surgical weight loss to discuss the latest science pertaining to the disease of obesity. There were surgical discussions, behavioral therapy discussions, science on genetics, science on diet, etc. For a science geek, the meeting was fantastic. That being said, I did get the feeling that for the most part, we may be missing the forest for the trees. Let me explain. Nutrition researcher and author Marion Nestle said, "The problem with nutrient by nutrient nutritional science is that it takes the nutrient out of context of the food, the food out of context of the diet, and the diet out of the context of the lifestyle." This is no more evident than in these large scientific meetings. The studies that were reviewed looked at the minutest changes in the body. Nobody really talked about food at all. We talked about protein, carbs and fat, but never once was an actual food mentioned. I often wonder what these scientists think a "protein" is. What would they classify a bean, which is starch and protein? Or steak, which is protein and fat. The other problem is that the goal of all the science was not to demonstrate a new way to eat but rather to find targets for drugs. For example, there were some interesting studies on brown fat versus white fat and how we could potentially discover a medication that could turn white fat to brown fat and thereby raise metabolism. On the surgery side, discussions centered around how we can improve the surgery and handle the complications that inevitably occur. If someone fails the surgery, what other surgery can we do? There was no real mention of what we should tell people to eat after we alter their GI system with surgery. One presentation really showed perfectly how we have missed the big picture by delving so deeply into the biochemistry and physiology. A very intelligent scientist was reviewing her incredible research questioning whether pancreatic beta-cell dysfunction was the first step in developing obesity and diabetes. Her work was intricate and complicated. She demonstrated that consumption of heme iron, oxidizing substances, and acid may cause the beta-cells to stop functioning. At the end of her talk, someone asked her what she eats and she said a "low-carb diet." What??!!! A low-carb diet implies a high-protein diet, which implies a high-meat diet. Meat is the source of heme iron, oxidizing substances, and acid. Meanwhile, most low-carb diets avoid fruit, which is an excellent at scavenging oxidized substances and neutralizing acids. There is great research showing that whole-food, plant-based diets are the best for weight loss, diabetes, and heart disease. Unfortunately, the medical community seems to believe it needs to be more complicated—or that patients just can't follow such a diet. The complexity of the human body and its response to food is fascinating, but the solution to our Western diseases is really much simpler than Western medicine will realize. Eat your fruits and veggies and get moving. That is far more important than any bit of science we discussed. There will never be a silver bullet miracle pill. Hippocrates’ ancient words will always hold true, "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food." Dr. Garth Davis is a surgeon in Houston specializing in bariatric surgery.
As a doctor, I focus on removing meat and dairy products from the diet for disease prevention, but many folks choose to eschew meat to reduce their carbon footprint. Just as we can no longer ignore food’s impact on our own health, we can’t ignore food's role in climate change either.
For your eco-conscious friends who still chow down on cheeseburgers, there’s a new documentary emphasizing the meat industry’s global environmental impact. Cowspiracy slams home the fact that meat production is the number-one source of greenhouse gases and deforestation. And while parts of the United States are facing a drought, it takes 660 gallons of water to produce a single hamburger.
Al Gore, Bill Gates, and James Cameron have all been decidedly outspoken about how meat production and consumption affect both health and the environment. Research shows that animal products are bad for humans—leading to an increased risk of heart disease, cancer, obesity, and diabetes. Moving meat products off your plate—for whatever reason— will have a lasting impact on your own health and the environment.
This is a guest post from Physicians Committee member Ted Barnett, M.D. Research shows that a low-fat, plant-based diet is effective in managing and reversing diabetes, decreasing the need for medication and cutting medical costs. This is why the Minister of Health of the Republic of Macedonia invited Caroline Trapp, N.P., C.D.E., from the Physicians Committee, and me to discuss how a healthful diet can reduce the country’s rising diabetes rates and associated costs. Diabetes is a global epidemic, but as a physician practicing in the United States, I tend to focus on the skyrocketing rate of diabetes within America. However, the diabetes statistics in Macedonia are even worse. More than 11 percent of people in this country, once part of Yugoslav, have diabetes. And from the years 2000 to 2030, its prevalence is expected to nearly double. After arriving in the country, we visited Saints Cyril and Methodius University of Skopje. We met with the director of the university’s cardiology clinic as well as Nikola Jankulovski, M.D., the dean of the university’s medical school. Our nutrition presentation to a group of faculty members on Wednesday was a success, with many staying after the lecture to ask questions. This was followed by two-hour presentations to even larger groups on Thursday and Friday. During our presentations, Ms. Trapp focused on diabetes and I focused on heart disease. One of the most crucial meetings was with Nikola Todorov, the Minister of Health.
Caroline Trapp, Minister Todorov, and Alex Mitov, M.D., discussing diabetes in the Minister’s office.
Minister Todorov is very interested in reducing the $25 million the country pays for insulin each year. Ms. Trapp presented our research showing that he could reduce medical costs by starting patients on a low-fat plant-based diet. Not long into the meeting, the Minister asked to team up with the Physicians Committee to do a research study in Macedonia to establish that lifestyle interventions can successfully treat diabetes. Of course, we are excited by the opportunity to help show the benefits of a plant-based diet firsthand. We met again with Minister Todorov on Friday evening and he reiterated his support for a research project to evaluate the effects of lifestyle changes. As I am an interventional radiologist, he was also interested in my opinions regarding establishing a program for intracranial catheter thrombectomy and thrombolysis in the setting of acute stroke.
Alex Mitov, M.D., Caroline Trapp, N.P., C.D.E., Esma Redžepova, and Ted Barnett, M.D. at the home of Ms. Redžepova.
On Friday evening, after our second meeting with the Minister of Health, we had a delightful meeting with Esma Redžepova, one of the most famous performers in Macedonia and someone who has lived with type 2 diabetes for nearly 20 years. As a humanitarian, she has been twice nominated for the Nobel Peace prize. We found her to be an inspiration!
We are grateful to the government of Macedonia for inviting us to help them tackle the diabetes epidemic and look forward to bringing our expertise to bear.
November is both Native American Heritage Month and National Diabetes Month. Though the two may seem unrelated, it’s possible—even beneficial—to acknowledge both at the same time.
A traditional Native American diet incorporates corn, beans, squash, fruits, and grains—all foods that can help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. However, Native American communities have moved away from these plant foods toward the standard American diet full of meat and dairy products, which increase the risk of diabetes.
For all Americans—no matter which race—diabetes statistics are far too high. Forty percent will have diabetes in his or her lifetime. Ten percent of Americans overall currently have diabetes. But for Native Americans in particular, the rate rises to 16 percent.
To cut diabetes rates, we need to cut out high-risk foods. Dairy products are the main source of saturated fat and cholesterol in the American diet, and diets high in fat can increase insulin resistance and increase the risk of heart disease. Meat-eating is also considered a risk factor for diabetes. A study out of Taiwan shows that women and men who avoid meat entirely reduce their diabetes risk by 70 and 45 percent respectively. The Physicians Committee’s own research has found that a low-fat vegan diet improves glycemic control and heart health in patients with type 2 diabetes.
The alarming diabetes statistics for Native Americans prompted us to visit the Navajo Nation and work with community leaders to implement nutrition programs to help Native Americans manage and reverse their diabetes. The Physicians Committee recently released Food for Life in Indian Country, a documentary detailing the progress and successes from our program. The film shows that a return to traditional plant-based meals can help Native American communities reverse their diabetes and experience a boost in overall health.
We brought in Native American chef Lois Ellen Frank to create recipes that incorporated cultural tradition alongside disease-fighting ingredients. The Food for Life in Indian Country booklet has several recipes for every course, along with a sample daily menu. This month, try the Posole Harvest Stew or the Indian No-Fry Bread. Spread good health—and promote diabetes awareness and Native American heritage—by bringing traditional Native American recipes to your next potluck and sharing our booklet with friends and family.
For more information, visit PCRM.org/Diabetes.
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