India Today - - NEWS -

Most peo­ple are very in­ter­ested in know­ing what’s good for them to eat. As med­i­cal sci­ence and re­search pro­gresses, new find­ings keep emerg­ing, mak­ing it quite con­fus­ing for the layper­son. For me, one of the most de­bated is­sues is the ben­e­fits or oth­er­wise of that won­der­ful food—the egg. When I was young, hav­ing an egg for break­fast was de rigueur. No ques­tions asked. As I grew up, it came to be known as the gen­er­a­tor of choles­terol which in ex­cess can lead to heart dis­ease. Much to my re­gret for the last 20 years I have vir­tu­ally stopped eat­ing eggs and on the rare oc­ca­sion that I do, it is only the whites. Nat­u­rally, I was over­joyed when ex­ec­u­tive ed­i­tor Da­mayanti Datta, who has spent over a decade track­ing health trends for in­dia to­day sug­gested a story on how eggs are now good for us. She quotes from the on­go­ing Prospec­tive Ur­ban and Ru­ral Epi­demi­o­log­i­cal (PURE) Study across five con­ti­nents, cov­er­ing 150,000 re­spon­dents, of which 29,298 are in In­dia.

The find­ings of the study, pub­lished in the re­puted Lancet, con­clude that an egg a day has no link with heart dis­ease.

From be­ing black­listed by doc­tors for the last 50 years, the egg is now be­ing con­sid­ered a must in all di­ets. Since 2003, a team of 56 in­ves­ti­ga­tors work­ing on the PURE study have found di­ets high in car­bo­hy­drates—rather than fats—are the real threat. So eggs, rich in nat­u­ral fat and choles­terol, are no longer the vil­lain of the piece. Us­ing that as the spring­board, Datta did ex­ten­sive re­search to show how a high choles­terol diet which in­cludes a daily egg does not raise the risk of heart dis­ease, even in those ge­net­i­cally pre­dis­posed to it. Ap­par­ently, the hid­den killer is sugar, which has in­creased in our diet. When the Amer­i­can Heart As­so­ci­a­tion and USDA cut down on di­etary fat from the 1960s, the food in­dus­try re­sponded by go­ing ‘low-fat’, but what was hid­den be­hind their la­bels were, typ­i­cally, ar­ti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers, pro­cessed food high in carbs (which turn into glu­cose in the body), sugar, salt, un­sat­u­rated and hy­dro­genated oils. Re­searchers from the Univer­sity of San Fran­cisco showed last year how in the 1960s the sugar lobby paid sci­en­tists to study heart dis­ease, over­look­ing the role of sugar and pro­mot­ing di­etary fat as the prob­lem.

The story looks at how cul­ture shapes what we eat but also how chang­ing agri­cul­tural and an­i­mal hus­bandry pat­terns caused by the Green Rev­o­lu­tion and White Rev­o­lu­tion meant more wheat, rice and dairy on our din­ing ta­bles and fewer nu­tri­ent-rich veg­eta­bles and fruit. It also looks at the im­pact of the egg-is-bad bo­gey on the mas­sive mid­day meal scheme in In­dia, which feeds 100 mil­lion chil­dren ev­ery day. Nine­teen of the 29 states have not in­cor­po­rated the much-needed egg in the scheme, either be­cause of a mis­placed em­pha­sis on veg­e­tar­i­an­ism or a be­lief that eggs are not healthy. But such is the egg’s re­ver­sal of for­tune now that even the yolk has been de­clared an es­sen­tial rich source of pro­tein. As a re­sult of hours spent on the story, Datta says she fi­nally un­der­stood what was wrong with her diet and has now trans­formed it.

My own view on the de­bate? Eat a bal­anced diet with ev­ery­thing in mod­er­a­tion, avoid fad­dish foods and ex­er­cise regimes. And yes, don’t go eat­ing ten eggs a day af­ter read­ing our cover story. You never know what the next piece of re­search is go­ing to say!

Our food cov­ers in 1989 and 2003

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