Bad news for egg lovers: Heart disease study spoils our breakfast

Fans of eggs -- scrambled, soft boiled or steaming in your breakfast burrito -- must now contend with a new report saying that the lecithin in this frequently vilified food raises the risk of heart disease due to its effect on intestinal bacteria.

And eggs aren’t the only culprit. Liver, beef and pork have a similar effect. What?! Not my bacon!

Will we be saying goodbye to our bacon-and-eggs breakfast forever? Chances are, no.

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Stanley Hazen, researcher on the new study, reportedly is not recommending “dietary restrictions of entire food groups.” Eggs, meat and other animal products are “integral,” he noted, to most people’s diet.

Yet, he said, his study showed “when digesting these foods, gut flora can generate a chemical mediator ... that may contribute to cardiovascular disease.”

Perhaps the silver lining for egg lovers is that the lecithin risk involves the egg yolk -- that dietary villain slammed by doctors and scientists in the past for its high cholesterol content. We can avoid that by eating egg whites, right?  Yet, as Harvard’s School of Public Health has noted, the yolk has protein, vitamins B12 and D, riboflavin and folate, great nutrients for lowering the risk of heart disease.

It’s a mixed message, and the new study seems to cloud the picture further. The research, published in the April 25 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, focused on microbes in the gut and blood levels of that chemical mediator, a substance called TMAO (trimethylamine-N-oxide). When you eat an egg, bacteria in the gut help convert the lecithin to TMAO.


In the study, those with the highest levels of TMAO in their blood had a “2.5-fold higher risk of major adverse cardiovascular events” than those with the lowest amount of TMAO, MedPage Today reported. 

Even among people with no traditional risk factors for heart disease, Mother Nature Network said, high levels of TMAO were linked with an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

More studies are needed to confirm the results. In the meantime, common sense rules. So far, experts aren’t saying “eliminate,” they’re sticking to the usual advice: Cut back on foods high in fat and cholesterol -- which also will reduce the amount of TMAO in the blood.


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