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Unscrambling the facts

27/06/2012

Reports linking eggs in Atkins-style diets with heart disease wrong, say experts.

Reports linking high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets with a higher risk of heart disease have erroneously used eggs as an example of a food to avoid, says a leading British nutritionist.

The reports are based on a study published in the British Medical Journal which followed 43,000 middle-aged Swedish women and showed that those following a low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet had a greater risk of cardiovascular disease.

The study did not single out eggs as a specific risk factor and in fact stated that ‘the associations of low carbohydrate, high protein, and low carbohydrate-high protein scores with cardiovascular outcomes were not, in general, statistically significantly different between women whose protein intake was mainly of animal origin and those whose protein intake was mainly of plant origin.’

However, some commentators on the study have used eggs as an example of a high protein food and, in some cases, have wrongly used eggs as an example of a food high in saturated fat.

Nutritionist Dr Juliet Gray says: ‘Some of today’s reports are extremely misleading in erroneously singling out eggs to illustrate the Swedish study. The study itself does not highlight eggs and it is impossible to make such allegations when there was no information about how women's diets had changed over time and no detailed information provided about other components of diet, such as high fat meats.

‘In addition, low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets would be low in wholegrain, vegetables and fruit - dietary patterns associated with higher rates of cardiovascular disease.

‘The paper does not present detailed dietary data and therefore any conclusion relating to eggs is totally unwarranted.

‘Eggs are not high in saturated fat and there are no limits on their consumption for the general population - in fact, there are clear nutritional benefits to eating eggs on a regular basis for all age groups. At less than 80 calories, an egg nevertheless contains plenty of protein, vitamins and minerals.’