fitness · nutrition

Fake egg news? More on the eggs-good/eggs-bad controversy

Just to be clear, this post is not on news about fake eggs.  There’s a whole internet discussion about them (which is not well-substantiated).  I don’t mean the standard brightly colored Easter eggs that look like this:

Easter eggs painted in bright colors, with dots and swirls and lined patterns. Pretty...
Easter eggs painted in bright colors, with dots and swirls and lined patterns. Pretty…

I mean manufactured ersatz eggs, being sold as actual eggs.  The internet discussion suggests they’re being made in China from many artificial ingredients, one of which is called “magic water” (which may just be salt water– not clear).  Read all about it here.

But I digress. What’s been in the real news recently is a Chinese study investigating associations between egg consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease.  Their published conclusion was this:

Among Chinese adults, a moderate level of egg consumption (up to <1 egg/day) was significantly associated with lower risk of CVD, largely independent of other risk factors.

Of course, mainstream news roared into gear, cranking out the following headlines:

Even the medical newsletter BMJ (British Medical Journal) Heart swallowed the story whole, reporting on the eggs-good turn of events here.

There’s a lot to criticize here, both about the new eggs-good study and the uncritical reportage, including those (like BMJ Heart) who ought to know better.  In brief:

  • the study is observational, so it can’t establish cause-and-effect;
  • it relies on food frequency questionnaires, which are notoriously unreliable (who remembers what they had for breakfast last Wednesday? Anyone? Anyone?)
  • there were loads of confounders in the study– that is, other features of groups of participants which could account for some/most/all of the effects they say they observed. Read more about all of these here.

But: what about the eggs? Are they good for us or bad for us?

I have three answers to this question:

  1. Woman shrugging her shoulders, indicating "I have no idea".
    I have no idea.

    2.

    A person standing in a field on a haybale, with the words "in the end it's not my call".
    In the end, it’s not my call.

    3.

    an open carton of a dozen eggs, with the words--You get to decide what counts as "good" food to you; and then whether and when and how and how much to eat of it.
    You get to decide what counts as “good” food to you; and then whether and when and how and how much to eat of it.

     

For more on the eggs-good/eggs-bad affair, you can read my 2016 blog post on it here.  We have also posted a lot about the notions of “good” and “bad foods.  Here a, but just google it and you’ll find we have a lot to say.  However, the TL:DR version is this: there aren’t any “good” or “bad” foods. There may not even be any “good for you” or “bad for you” foods.  There’s food, and then there are all of our views and concerns, and needs and constraints, and preferences, etc. about the food.

What do you think when you read headlines like “[insert food x here] is now shown to [insert prevent or cause] [insert bad health thing]?  Are you inclined to change your eating habits based on the new news that food X is now “good for you” or now “bad for you”? We’d love to hear from you.

 

 

 

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