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Dr. Don McNamara
on November 14, 2008

IEC 2008: Research shows eggs promote health, prevent disease

Egg Nutrition Center research has shown that egg consumption carries benefits for all age groups and positively affects a broad spectrum of health issues including obesity and low birth rate.

Dr. Don McNamara from the Egg Nutrition Center (ENC), United States, reported on the phenomenal transition that has taken place over the past 12 years in how eggs are perceived as part of the human diet.

“We can now tell consumers that if they include eggs in their diets it will lower their risk of heart disease, breast and colon cancers, age-related eye diseases, muscle loss in the elderly and satiety which helps retain your weight,” Dr. McNamara said.

“Eggs for breakfast could be the vitamin pills of the future. All the nutrients, enrichments you need, not in a supplement, but in a natural food product. I think a lot of consumers would prefer to get their vitamins from food rather than supplements,” he added. “We can talk about the contribution of eggs to health, to disease prevention and to malnutrition. Many people are borderline malnourished because the quality of their diets is not good enough. Eggs are a nutrient-rich food that provide a spectrum of essential nutrients at a low calorie cost.”

All age groups benefit

Dr. McNamara reported that ENC research has shown that egg consumption carries benefits for all age groups and positively affect a broad spectrum of health issues including obesity and low birth rate.

“Adding a couple of eggs a day to a pregnant woman’s diet can have a significant effect in reducing the incidence of low birth weight,” he said.

Research has shown that egg consumption has positive results on preventing macular degeneration, a major health care problem and the leading cause of irreversible blindness. Eggs also make the aged healthier by helping in the retention of lean muscle tissue.

“These benefits also offer a world of possibilities for the egg-processing sector as it can now make eggs for everyone, such as egg products for pregnant women, for children, athletes, weight control, seniors and even for pets,” he extolled.

Health-enhancing menu item

He went on to say, “You can take any health situation in the population and target the composition of an egg product for that specific group. Research increasingly shows that eating eggs really does prevent disease.”

Xanthophylls, which gives the egg yolk its color, offers protection against age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, breast cancer, colon cancer and can help lower the risk of heart disease.

Eggs can help solve obesity which is now a worldwide crisis. They are nutrient-rich, contain only 75 calories each, and provide a high-quality protein.

Yolks provide building blocks

Egg yolk contains 53% of the essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein.

“You can’t make muscle tissue unless you have the 12 essential amino acids, which we have to get from our diets and eggs provide all of them and in the right proportions to give the optimal benefit for muscle growth in the body,” Dr. McNamara stressed. “Egg protein has the highest chemical score, the highest biological value and the highest protein efficacy ratio of any protein that you can buy in the supermarket.”

Egg protein does much more as it also has the satiety effect which means you feel fuller longer, do not feel as hungry and don’t eat as many calories.

“If you have eggs for breakfast you will actually reduce the amount of calories that you consume for lunch and over the rest of the day,” Dr. McNamara said. People eating five eggs a week for eight weeks, rather than a bagel for breakfast, lost more weight, reduced their body mass index and their percentage of body fat.

“When you lose weight, you want to get rid of body fat, not reduce muscle and one way of doing this is to eat more protein. This is a healthy way to lose weight,” he said.

Good for seniors

Sarcopenia, an age-related loss of muscle mass and strength, is a major cause of infirmity in older people. There is a marked correlation between protein intake and the loss of lean muscle tissue. This relates to animal, not vegetable, protein. Adding animal protein to the diet results in significantly lower of muscle tissue.

“So, in an aging population we can maintain their health and well-being much better by giving them sources of high quality protein. But, people in this age group often have dentures that give rise to chewing problems. What’s easier to eat than an egg?” Dr. MacNamara asked.

So, eggs reduce the risk of a low birth rate in infants, aid optimal growth for children, give satiety for weight control, minimize muscle tissue loss and lean tissue loss with aging, and are nutrient rich and low in calories. “All of these facts could provide messages for the population in general,” he observed.

Excellent choline source

Eggs were reported as an excellent source of choline, which was established as an essential nutrient about 10 years ago. It is a nutrient needed for nerve signalling, cholesterol transport, energy metabolism and the maintenance of cell membranes. Hence, it plays a critical role in the body metabolism but is especially important in the development of the fetal brain.

Although the body makes choline, most people do not have sufficient levels in their systems. Two eggs a day provide 50% of the recommended intake.

Specifically, there is an increased need for choline in pregnant and lactating women because their bodies cannot make enough to satisfy an infant’s needs. Less than one in 10 pregnant women get the recommended intake of choline. With one egg a day added to the diet, this ratio improves to five out of 10.

Age-related memory loss is also reduced if the mother gets enough choline during pregnancy.

Choline greatly reduces the risk of suffering from spinabifida and anencepholy and lowers the risk of heart disease. “We have now reached the point where we can say that eggs don’t increase your risk of heart disease but can actually help lower that risk,” Dr. MacNamara asserted.

Anti-oxidant properties

Lutein, a major xanthophyll in eggs, is a powerful anti-oxidant that protects the eyes from damage from ultra-violet light and is associated with reduced risk from age-related macular degeneration, and breast, uterine and skin cancers. It is another new nutrient shown to be beneficial to overall health.

Diets are typically short of lutein. Six milligrams of lutein are needed a day and most individuals are getting about one milligram.

The good news is that the amount of lutein in an egg can be increased tenfold, and that it has high bioavailability. This enrichment could apply to egg products.

Cataract risk dramatically fell with increased lutein in the diet. Colon cancer and heart risks were reduced by as much as 50%, with higher intakes of lutein and zeaxanthin.

More than ok

Eggs are one of the few natural resources of vitamin D, the quantity of which could be significantly increased through feed. Vitamin D deficiency had been linked to a 26% risk of death in adults. Forty percent children and teenagers were considered to have vitamin D deficiencies.

The risk of strokes in men was significantly lower in those who ate eggs compared to those who did not.

Dr. McNamara concluded by saying: “Credible science has backed up our claims for the incredible egg in its contributions to health promotion and disease prevention. They reduce the risk of diseases and also address nutrient deficiencies in the diet.

“Enrichment of eggs and egg products with lutein, B12, folic acid and vitamin D gives branding opportunities to sell products that address specific health issues of different segments of the population. We can open up a world of opportunities of how we can use the science of egg nutrition to address these messages. An egg a day is so much more than okay.”

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