Eggs Blamed for Heart Disease Again — From Poor Science

Eggs Blamed for Heart Disease Again — From Poor Science post image

The New York Times online Health section yesterday reported (Gina Kolata) that eggs have been implicated in increasing the risk of heart disease by the same mechanism that evoked fear in meat eaters just two weeks ago.

Trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) in the News Again

Researchers found that the lecithin in egg yolks is digested to choline which is metabolized by gut bacteria to become TMA and then to the liver, to trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) — the very same substance that is metabolized from the carnitine in red meat. This risk was broadcasted all over the media two weeks ago — causing unnecessary concerns about eating red meat.

In the study published in the New England Journal of Medicine the researchers concluded that,

The production of TMAO from dietary phosphatidylcholine is dependent on metabolism by the intestinal microbiota. Increased TMAO levels are associated with an increased risk of incident major adverse cardiovascular events. (Funded by the National Institutes of Health and others.)

Choline from Egg Yolks is Converted to TMAO by Gut Bacteria

This started out to be a study of the relationship of gut bacteria to cardiovascular risk. Suddenly there are tons of studies involving gut bacteria — which is a good thing — but maybe not.

As I am definitely not an expert at reading some of these technical studies, I take my advice from people who are experts and can pull apart fact from fiction.

Dr. Jeff Leach from the American Gut Project

One of my favorite scientists is Dr. Jeff Leach who is currently running the American Gut Project. If anyone knows about gut bacteria, he does. In his typical charming and humerous writing style, in this article called “From Meat to Microbes to Main street: is it time to trade in your George Foreman Grill?”, he completely debunks the carnitine association to cardiac risk.

To give just one example of his criticism of the study that associated carnitine from red meat with cardiac risk, he discusses the part of the study in the cohort of 2,595 men and women undergoing elective cardiac evaluation. The researchers found an association between TMAO concentrations in serum and cardiovascular risks. The relationship between raised TMAO and caradiac risk was highest in the group/quartile of 650 individuals. Dr. Leach points out the stats of this group:

Average age of this group/quartile was 61, 80% were male, were overweight to obese on average, one out of three had diabetes, 75% were hypertensive, a whopping 77% were smokers, numerous medications like statins and beta-blockers were the norm, and every biomarker of a crappy diet was elevated, as well as biomarkers of inflammation. In short, these folks were a mess.

Dr. Leach goes on to say,

It’s important to note the TMAO association was just that, an association – among many. At this point it might be useful to mention that even though the researchers are focused on red meat, an amazing assortment of foods can generate levels of TMAO higher than that reported for red meat. To name a few: potatoes, peas, peanuts, eggs, mushrooms, bread, squid, prawn, crab, halibut, cod, herring, tuna and an assortment of other fishy things. So, who’s to say that red meat is responsible for the higher concentrations of TMAO in the sickest quartile of these 2,595 people? If a TMAO association is the issue, then we might want to start issuing warnings to the general public that omega-rich fish are now off the menu, as well as carrots and peas. Remember, correlation does not equal causation

I think we can extrapolate the information from these criticisms to include this new study about the TMAO from the lecithin in egg yolks — as Dr.Leach mentioned above.

Additionally, there is this excellent article from Chris Kresser that links the many writers who have debunked this meat fiasco.

The Bottom Line

As I have said before, Red Meat Won’t Kill You — and neither will eggs. But poor science will.

Eat plenty of cholesterol and saturated fat rich foods like red meat and eggs. Just make sure the animals are humanely raised on pasture.

What do you think about all this? Leave a comment and let me know!

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This post is shared at: Gluten Free Friday, Fresh Bites Friday, Small Footprint Friday, Barnyard hop, Hearth & Soul Hop

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Leave a Comment

  • K April 25, 2013, 11:55 pm

    Was hoping you’d address this fallacious Times article! Thanks for clearing all that up!

  • Susan Weinberg April 26, 2013, 6:46 am

    I think I’m going to make eggs for breakfast this morning! 😀 Thanks for the article!

  • Nadine Feldman April 26, 2013, 11:14 am

    I’m so glad you wrote about this. My husband was quoting the Times article, and I knew it didn’t make any sense.

  • Cathy F. April 27, 2013, 10:28 pm

    Nice article. Thanks! I’m always looking for fresh sources to support my meat habit…and my egg habit. And my butter habit.

  • Stephanie Seneff views sulfur deficiency, via the restriction of eggs, and sulfur depleted soils to be a contributing factor of heart disease. Most people are deficient in sulfur and practically everything else. And yet many such people will avoid eating eggs, which are one of the richest sources.

  • April @ The 21st Century Housewife May 1, 2013, 1:02 pm

    I really enjoyed reading your post. It’s very well researched. I have to be honest, I honestly think that most things in moderation are fine. Sometimes scientists are so quick to label foods ‘good’ or bad’ – someone is always going to disagree with their research. I’m certainly not going to stop eating eggs – I think they are a great source of protein among other nutrients.

  • Cindy (Vegetarian Mamma) May 2, 2013, 1:54 pm

    As always, great informational post! 🙂 Thanks for linking up at our Gluten Free Fridays party! I have tweeted and pinned your entry to our Gluten Free Fridays board on Pinterest! 🙂

    Be sure to stop by to see who the winner of our So Lucky GF Basket is! We are ALSO having a fantastic giveaway this week to kick off Celiac Awareness month! 🙂

    Cindy from

  • Lorraine May 26, 2013, 7:19 pm

    Thank you for this article. I read about the carnitine gut flora association in an article in Economist and had the same response noted here. Its great gut flora is being looked into but the correlations that were ‘suggested’ in that article were mysterious to say the least and yet misleading to the general population. In fact I don’t understand what was to be gained by publishing such poor scientific results. Who wins when people stop eating red meat?

  • Kathleen May 27, 2013, 7:55 pm

    You feed chickens GMO feed and then holler when there is poison in the eggs? Feed beef GMO feed and complain about what it does to your heart? You give an animal poison to eat and it’s going to show up somewhere in their system and yours! I’d like to see these studies done on organic grass fed animals.