UNSCRAMBLING THE TRUTH

What you need to know about the ef­fect of eggs on choles­terol lev­els, their nu­tri­tional con­tent, and more.

Shape (Singapore) - - Front Page -

There is noth­ing pal­try about the num­ber of eggs con­sumed in Sin­ga­pore every year. Our ap­petite for them has ac­tu­ally been grow­ing. A check with the Agri-Food & Vet­eri­nary Author­ity (AVA) shows that the yearly per capita con­sump­tion of hen eggs rose from 291 eggs in 2006 to 338 eggs in 2016. How­ever, there are peo­ple who avoid eat­ing them be­cause they con­sider eggs to be rich in choles­terol. Is there truth in this as­sump­tion? Ex­perts weigh in on this and an­swer other com­mon ques­tions on this food source.

Q Where does Sin­ga­pore get its eggs from? A Around 76 per cent are im­ported mostly from Malaysia, and farms in Sin­ga­pore sup­ply the rest. Lo­cal sup­plier Seng Choon Farm pro­duces 540,000 eggs a day or 11 per cent of the daily con­sump­tion here. It ex­pects to raise daily pro­duc­tion to 600,000 eggs next year. A spokesman says the farm can pro­duce up to 750,000 eggs a day. An­other ma­jor player, Chew’s Agri­cul­ture, pro­duces half a mil­lion eggs daily for the Sin­ga­pore mar­ket, up from 300,000 in 2010.

Q How many types of eggs are sold in Sin­ga­pore? A There are seven types: cage-free, cer­ti­fied or­ganic, free-range, omega-3 en­riched, pas­teurised, brown, and kam­pung eggs.

Q What health ben­e­fits do eggs of­fer? A They are one of the rich­est sources of di­etary choles­terol. They also con­tain nu­tri­ents that may help lower the risk of heart dis­ease.

Ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Egg Board, an egg has 14 es­sen­tial nu­tri­ents, in­clud­ing vi­ta­min D and choline. Vi­ta­min D is crit­i­cal for bone health and im­mune func­tion, as well as the healthy brain de­vel­op­ment of a foe­tus dur­ing preg­nancy. Choline is es­sen­tial for the nor­mal func­tion­ing of all cells.

Eggs also con­tain lutein and zeax­an­thin. These an­tiox­i­dants are be­lieved to re­duce the risk of cataracts and slow the pro­gres­sion of age-re­lated mac­u­lar de­gen­er­a­tion.

Q Should I avoid eggs be­cause of the choles­terol? A There is no need to avoid them. Re­cent stud­ies show that choles­terol in food has a much smaller ef­fect on a per­son’s harm­ful choles­terol lev­els than sat­u­rated fats and trans fats, ac­cord­ing to Ong Ke Min, a nu­tri­tion­ist at nu­tri­tion con­sul­tancy Health Can Be Fun.

Dr Charles Chan, a car­di­ol­o­gist at Gle­nea­gles Hospi­tal, says, “While eggs are high in choles­terol, they are also high in omega-3 fatty acids. The ef­fect of egg con­sump­tion on blood choles­terol is min­i­mal when com­pared to the ef­fect of trans fats and sat­u­rated fats.” He adds that most healthy peo­ple can eat up to seven a week with no in­crease in the risk of heart dis­ease.

Re­sults from the lat­est stud­ies have led ma­jor health ad­vi­sory groups to re­lax their rec­om­men­da­tions on egg con­sump­tion. Dr Chan says: “What has changed is the shift in fo­cus to­wards a healthy eat­ing pat­tern, rather than on the avoid­ance of foods such as eggs.” There is also a lack of epi­demi­o­log­i­cal data to sug­gest that egg con­sump­tion in­creases the risk of coro­nary heart dis­ease.

“In fact, eat­ing eggs may be ben­e­fi­cial,” he adds, point­ing to the Ja­panese diet, which fre­quently in­cor­po­rates eggs, and is typ­i­cally low in to­tal fat and sat­u­rated fat. The in­ci­dence of de­clin­ing heart dis­ease in Ja­pan tends to mir­ror the in­crease in con­sump­tion of eggs per capita.

More stud­ies are also start­ing to show that an egg a day might not af­fect the choles­terol lev­els of peo­ple with high choles­terol if the rest of their diet is healthy and low in sat­u­rated fat.

Natalie Goh, chief di­eti­tian at Mount Eliz­a­beth Novena Hospi­tal, says that con­sum­ing an egg a day is fine for healthy adults. Also, re­cent sci­en­tific re­ports show that peo­ple who eat four to six eggs a week were not ob­served to have a higher risk of car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease.

But the pic­ture is less clear for those who eat more than one a day, she says. Like all foods, they should be eaten in mod­er­a­tion, and as part of a balanced diet.

Q Should I avoid eat­ing egg yolks? A Dr Chan points out that there is no need to avoid the yolk, which con­tains all the fat in the egg. “Eat­ing purely egg whites has be­come pop­u­lar with peo­ple who want to avoid ex­cess choles­terol. But tak­ing both the fat and pro­tein can have a pos­i­tive ef­fect on blood sugar,” he says.

“Con­sum­ing the fat sa­ti­ates your ap­petite but slows down the ab­sorp­tion of food. By eat­ing only the egg white, you’ll miss out on healthy nu­tri­ents.”

Ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Egg Board, egg whites con­tain some high-qual­ity pro­tein, ri­boflavin and se­le­nium, but a big pro­por­tion of an egg’s nu­tri­ents is found in the yolk.

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