Those who had a daily egg, whether scrambled, boiled, poached or fried, lowered their stroke risk by 12 per cent on average. The findings mean that eggs — long vilified as sources of cholesterol, which is linked to a raised likelihood of stroke — could prevent thousands of deaths each year.
There are more than 150,000 strokes each year in Britain and a quarter are fatal within a year. They are the world’s second biggest killer after heart disease.
The most common strokes are caused by blocked blood vessels, which cut off blood to the brain. The risk is linked to diet and exercise.
In the 1950s the “Go to Work on an Egg” campaign touted eggs as the healthiest of breakfasts. Their reputation dived, however, as evidence grew that cholesterol caused cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Studies in recent years have shown that eggs themselves appear to have no adverse health effects after all, possibly because their positive dietary properties outweigh the negatives of the cholesterol.
The latest paper to find that eating eggs has health benefits, published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, collated the results of seven studies published between 1982 and last year. It did not differentiate between cooking methods. The lead author, Dominik Alexander, of the EpidStat Institute in Michigan, said that the study itself could not determine why eggs may prevent strokes, but added that eggs in general were a good source of nutrition with few downsides.
“Eggs have many positive nutritional attributes, including antioxidants, which have been shown to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation,” he said. “They are also an excellent source of protein, which has been related to lower blood pressure.”
Other scientists said that it was difficult to be sure whether the consumption of eggs lowered the risks. Eating them may be linked to other lifestyle or dietary changes not picked up in the study, which was sponsored by the American Egg Board.
“This study suggests that eating up to one egg a day may reduce your stroke risk,” Shamim Quadir, of the Stroke Association, said. “However, it is very hard to establish a single item in a person’s diet that will have a positive or negative effect on their health. We can all reduce our risk of stroke by exercising regularly, consuming a healthy, balanced diet and getting our blood pressure checked.”
Victoria Taylor, of the British Heart Foundation, said: “This review reinforces research that moderate egg consumption does not increase the risk of heart disease in healthy individuals. They can be eaten as part of a healthy diet. The fact that eggs can reduce your risk of having a stroke is interesting; however more research is needed.”
She said that the research did not give people carte blanche to have a full English breakfast. “Eggs are a nutritious food but you do need to pay attention to how the eggs are cooked and to the trimmings that come with them,” she said. “For example, poached eggs on wholegrain toast is a very different meal to a fry-up.”
Unscrambling the conundrums
Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Philosophers considered the question unanswerable; in 2010 scientists claimed to have solved it. After finding a protein vital to eggshell formation that existed only in chicken ovaries, Sheffield researchers said the hard egg of the chicken cannot have been inherited from its ancestors. The chicken came first.
The other great egg conundrum has a less definitive answer: should you refrigerate? Tests have shown no difference in shelf-life between eggs in and out of the fridge, although the NHS still recommends chilling. In the US, where fewer chickens are vaccinated against salmonella, refrigeration is advised.
Assuming it doesn’t contain salmonella, the healthiest egg is a raw egg. Otherwise, try poaching or boiling.
Source: Tom Whipple, Science Editor, The Times
Date: November 2, 2016