WHY EGGS ARE GOOD FOR YOU

India Today - - BIG STORY CHINA - By DA­MAYANTI DATTA Il­lus­tra­tions by NILANJAN DAS

AF­TER YEARS OF BE­ING SHUNNED AS THE CUL­PRITS BE­HIND HEART DIS­EASE, NEW RE­SEARCH SUG­GESTS THAT EGGS ARE AC­TU­ALLY GOOD FOR YOU

“OFF WITH EGGS,” said his doc­tor. “So what the egg do I eat now?” The doc­tor stared him down. With sky-high choles­terol num­bers, eggs were brushed aside from his ta­ble like un­wel­come guests at a party. It was pretty rough, af­ter years of start­ing his day with sunny-side-ups. But he leaned into the empti­ness left by eggs, zen-like, em­brac­ing all the chaos for good: the snap and crackle of ce­re­als, the chalky egg-white omelettes, the spongy tofu scram­bles, the an­ti­c­holes­terol statin drugs mess­ing up his taste­buds and giv­ing him con­sti­pa­tion, the chat­ter out there on Google link­ing egg-de­pri­va­tion to in­san­ity.

Then—boom—it’s 2017. Sud­denly eggs are back as the new su­per­star of the ta­ble. So­cial me­dia is flooded with Cloud Eggs, the “new break­fast craze”. Fash­ion­able foodies are ad­vis­ing why you must crack an egg into your cof­fee cup, an old Viet­namese drink that has sud­denly gone very ‘It’. Food ed­i­tors are writ­ing to­tally-egg cook­books. Celebrity chefs are call­ing eggs the “ul­ti­mate fast food”. Su­per­mar­ket shelves are fill­ing up with a be­wil­der­ing choice of spe­cial­ity eggs: organic, herbal, omega-3, cage-free. Egg eater­ies, with the coolest of names and the hottest of menus, are hatch­ing ev­ery­where, from New York to Navi Mum­bai. And a host of su­per-cen­te­nar­i­ans are claim­ing the egg as the “se­cret” of their longevity. What’s go­ing on? It’s the pa­tient’s turn to stare down his doc­tor.

THE EGG RE­NAIS­SANCE

There’s some­thing else in the air. The ap­petis­ing scent of whole­some sci­ence that’s giv­ing the egg back its rep­u­ta­tion. An ex­plo­sion of new re­search has emerged on the shift­ing winds of nu­tri­tion around the world, de­bunk­ing the “bad sci­ence” be­hind long-stand­ing diet guide­lines that de­monised some foods (say, eggs) and glo­ri­fied oth­ers (say, breads). The ubiq­ui­tous, un­re­mark­able, unas­sum­ing egg stands as the metaphor of this new di­etary re­nais­sance. Food pol­icy wonks are scratch­ing their heads. Doc­tors who rou­tinely put peo­ple off eggs are singing a new tune.

The in­ter­net is go­ing crazy with the pub­lic’s greed for knowl­edge: are eggs good or bad for you? Scram­bled, boiled, poached or fried? An egg a day or three? The yolk, or the white? “Eggs are one of the fastest grow­ing foods,” says Habibur Rah­man, deputy di­rec­tor-gen­eral (an­i­mal sciences) at the In­dian Coun­cil of Agri­cul­tural Re­search. With 84 bil­lion eggs pro­duced a year (in 2016), up from 34 bil­lion in 2000, In­dia is the world’s third largest egg pro­ducer. In­di­ans are eat­ing more eggs than they ever did: 63 eggs per capita a year, from 15 in 1980. The de­mand for eggs is ris­ing faster than meat, milk and ce­re­als. With ris­ing in­comes, a young and in­creas­ingly ur­ban pop­u­la­tion, our food con­sump­tion pat­tern has changed dra­mat­i­cally, ex­plains Rah­man. “Eggs are af­ford­able, con­ve­nient and very ver­sa­tile.”

WHAT’S THE TRUTH ON EGGS?

Ex­pect new an­swers to your old ques­tions. “Mount­ing ev­i­dence in­di­cates that the sci­ence on eggs has been dodgy at best and con­tro­ver­sial at worst,” says Dr Ashok Seth, chair­man of For­tis Es­corts Heart In­sti­tute, Delhi. The de­mon­i­sa­tion is linked essen­tially to out­dated ideas about heart dis­ease and what causes it, he ex­plains. Di­etary choles­terol and sat­u­rated fats—and eggs are rich in both—have been greatly over­sold as a health con­cern. “Over the past decade, we have learnt that choles­terol may not play as big a role in heart dis­ease as pre­vi­ously thought,” he points out. “And that chas­ing lower and lower choles­terol num­bers has its own is­sues.” Be­sides, eggs also have many other healthy com­po­nents, he points out. “Much of the knowl­edge on eggs, it now ap­pears, was a mis­con­cep­tion based on out-of­date ev­i­dence.”

“The sci­ence on eggs has swung wildly for years be­cause nu­tri­tion sci­ence can be mad­den­ingly com­pli­cated,” adds Dr B. Se­sik­eran, for­mer di­rec­tor of Na­tional In­sti­tute of Nu­tri­tion (NIN) and pres­i­dent, Nu­tri­tion So­ci­ety of In­dia. Hu­man nu­tri­tion is ex­ceed­ingly com­plex, he ex­plains. Diseases like obe­sity, di­a­betes or heart dis­ease de­velop over a life­time. It’s hard to fig­ure out the im­pact of one com­po­nent in a diet. Seem­ingly sim­i­lar foods can dif­fer wildly in nu­tri­tion pro­file. An egg dish at a restau­rant will have dif­fer­ent fat and salt con­tent com­pared with one made at home. “Ev­ery­thing we eat can si­mul­ta­ne­ously pro­mote and dis­rupt health. The grey ar­eas are of­ten clev­erly used by the food in­dus­try,” says Se­sik­eran.

FOOD POL­ICY WONKS ARE SCRATCH­ING THEIR HEADS. DOC­TORS WHO USED TO PUT PEO­PLE OFF EGGS ARE SINGING A NEW TUNE

A case in point is a study pub­lished in JAMA In­ter­nal Medicine, Septem­ber 2016, by re­searchers from Univer­sity of San Fran­cisco, show­ing how in the 1960s the sugar lobby had spon­sored in­flu­en­tial re­search that ob­scured the role of sugar in heart dis­ease, pro­mot­ing di­etary fat as the vil­lain in­stead. “Tech­nol­ogy to test hy­poth­e­sis as well as re­search lit­er­a­ture have bal­looned in the last decade,” points out Se­sik­eran. Epi­demi­ol­o­gists re­view­ing all the data are now say­ing eggs have an in­cred­i­ble abil­ity to boost health.

CON­SIDER THE EV­I­DENCE

“Eat your eggs with­out guilt.” When Dr Salim Yusuf, pres­i­dent of the World Heart Foun­da­tion, pre­sented pre­lim­i­nary data from a mas­sive on­go­ing study on diet and heart health at a Cleve­land Clinic car­di­ol­ogy sym­po­sium this Fe­bru­ary, the med­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment was taken aback. The In­dia-born car­di­ol­o­gist, epi­demi­ol­o­gist and Mar­ion W. Burke Chair pro­fes­sor at McMaster Univer­sity Med­i­cal School, Canada, was de­fy­ing the guide­lines of long-stand­ing “di­etary truths”.

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