To Egg or not to Egg
This is a follow up to the recent post Following a Plant Food Path. Following a plant food path has been a series of decisions that my wife, Donna, and I have made as we learned more about nutrition, what works for our bodies, and the food industry. One of the early decisions we had to make when we adopted a plant-food diet was whether or not to include eggs. At the time, we had just watched Forks over Knives and decided to make a change in our eating habits, but we didn’t know where the path would lead us. Since we had both grown up eating eggs, eating eggs seemed like a normal part of everyday life. Did we really need to remove eggs from our diet? To answer this question, we went online to investigate the pros and cons.
It took a while to sort fact from fiction regarding eggs. There were plenty of online articles on both sides of the issue. The preponderance of evidence seemed to say that eggs are linked with higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Yet, there were very vocal proponents of eggs as a health food. How could this be?
It’s simple really. Big money talks. It turns out that the American Egg Board has spent hundreds of millions of dollars over the past 40 years or so to convince people that eggs are healthy. Some of this money funds campaigns like “Wake up to Eggs”, “The incredible edible egg”, and more. This constant stream of advertising normalized the consumption of eggs in our collective subconscious. The board has also funded numerous studies that attempt to minimize the apparent effect of cholesterol in eggs and put egg consumption in a good light. Many of these studies are observational with no firm conclusions about cause and effect. And, of course, the news media capitalizes on the results of these studies with suggestive headlines such as “An egg a day might reduce your risk of heart disease, study says” from CNN. As Dr. John McDougall puts it, “People love to hear good news about their bad habits.” No wonder an online search pulls up so much support for eggs as a health food.
On the other hand, there is growing evidence that consuming eggs is deleterious to human health in several ways. Numerous studies link egg consumption with higher rates of type 2 diabetes. Other studies show that eating eggs damages endothelial function, causing artery-clogging plaque build-up, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. More recently, it was discovered that our gut bacteria can use eggs to accelerate cancer.
A very telling point is that the egg industry has been repeatedly rebuffed in its attempts to market eggs as healthy. The Federal Trade Commission carried out successful legal action to stop false advertising claiming that eggs have no harmful effects on health. If you read the article “Peeks Behind the Egg Industry Curtain” (nutritionfacts.org), you get a behind the scenes look at the extent to which the industry goes to market its product in a positive light. Since the Egg Board’s advertising funds are overseen by the federal government, the Board is not allowed to lie to the American public in those advertisements. For example, they are not allowed to say that eggs are nutritious or healthy or a diet food, because they are none of these things. They can’t even claim that eggs are safe for consumption, because more than a hundred thousand Americans get food poisoning every year from Salmonella in eggs.
Our initial inspiration for adopting a plant-based diet, was health. Neither of us wanted to suffer from the diseases that affected our parents including cancer, heart disease, diabetes and dementia. But we soon became aware that there is more to it than just our individual health. Choosing to eat animal products, in this case eggs, has a devastating effect on the environment and the suffering of the animals. Peta.org and other sites have “undercover” videos that show the horrendous conditions that many factory farm animals endure. These videos make you aware at a visceral level eating an egg has many more ramifications than just your own individual health. In the end, the decision was a no brainer. We decided to take eggs off the menu.
To your health!
Forever is composed of nows.
~ Emily Dickensen.