In the modern world, driven helter skelter by the cholesterol 'scare', eating egg and egg products has become a highly controversial subject of passionate arguments both for as well as against. The nutritionists recommend limited consumption of 3-4 eggs a week for a normal adult person, though many shun eggs under the belief that it can cause a plethora of life style diseases including CVD and diabetes. The latest to join this perennial debate is a group of scientists who propound regular consumption of eggs based on their experience. Their study has found that some of the important nutrients contained in the egg can reduce the risk of neural tube birth defects and in fact it can promote development of healthy eyes. This is attributed to the high quality of proteins present in egg which helps faster growing, increased muscle strength, improved energy mobilization and higher weight gain amongst children. Of course these findings fly in the face of some reports linking egg consumption to Type II diabetes, high BMI, hypertension, higher cholesterol levels etc but the variables that influence the overall health index of a person are so many which can vitiate many studies involving egg consumption. If some one is consuming egg along with alcohol, high salt, high sugar, high fat including saturated and trans fats, the disorders that manifest cannot be attributed to egg alone.
To be fair, egg is one of the most complete foods man has known because one egg has just 80 kC of energy mostly derived from proteins and fat, 6.3% very high quality proteins, just 5% of fat out of which 2% is saturated fat and rest MUFA and PUFA, 220 mg of cholesterol, ,125 mg of choline, 170 micrograms of Lutein and Zeaxanthine besides nutrients like Vitamin A and D, Folates, Iron and Zinc. The amount of protein in medium size egg meets 12% of RDA of an adult. Egg is also found to be involved in weight management, muscle strength and maintenance, healthy pregnancy, brain functions, heart health, methylation at cellular levels, inflammatory control and eye health and all these qualities are rarely present in any single food.
Choline present in egg providing 25% of RDA for this essential nutrient, has several functions in human body. During pregnancy choline helps proper development of fetal brain and ensures freedom from birth defects in the child. It helps to maintain the membrane structure of brain cells in adults. It is a key component in neuro transmitters that help relaying messages through nerves and muscles. Methylation at cellular levels, especially the genes, is facilitated by Choline and this is an important process of sending messages between the cells.
Lutein and Zeaxanthine, present in egg are important antioxidants that prevent macular degeneration and age related blindness. Interestingly, though these chemicals are present in other sources like Spinach, Algae etc, egg provides the best bio-available version of them. Leucine, one of the amino acids present in egg protein, helps the muscles to utilize the energy efficiently besides helping the muscles to recover from rigorous exercise regimens. Eating eggs as the first food in the day, instead of other foods, increases satiety and decrease hunger which in turn reduces net food consumption and helps in reducing body weight consistently. The cholesterol in eggs is falsely being accused of increased cholesterol build up whereas in truth, egg increases the friendly HDL, improving the HDL/LDL Ratio and reducing the risk of plaque formation in arteries. Generally it is recognized that diet cholesterol does not increase blood cholesterol in every body. In fact cholesterol is an important chemical that serves to insulate nerve fibers, maintain cell walls, produce Vitamin D, various hormones and digestion juices. There is a difference between diet cholesterol and blood cholesterol and former is not automatically converted to the latter on consumption. Recommended RDA is 300 mg per day which is likely to be raised in the light of newer findings now available to the policy makers.
Another improper understanding regarding the egg causing heart attack needs to be corrected. Egg protein present in the yolk is a potent inhibitor of human platelet aggregation and prolong the time for transformation of Fibrinogen to Fibrin which serves as a scaffold for platelets to form clumps for eventual narrowing of the arteries. There appears to be an inverse relation between egg consumption and heart attack, if some recent surveys are to be believed. Also reported is the formation of several short chain peptides during boiling or frying of eggs which have strong ACE inhibitor activity and consequently are helpful in preventing heart attacks amongst regular egg consumers..
The above critique is not to promote egg as a " must eat" healthy food but only to put the scientific facts in their right perspectives. It is true that vegetarians live without eggs, and live well too. But the range of nutrients and wide benefits of eggs can be found only in multiple sources of plant origin, requiring careful menu planning. Choice is yours!