Eggs Improve Plasma Biomarkers in Patients with Metabolic Syndrome Following a Plant-Based Diet—A Randomized Crossover Study

Minu S. Thomas 1, Michael Puglisi 1, Olga Malysheva 2, Marie A. Caudill 2, Maria Sholola 3, Jessica L. Cooperstone 3,4 and Maria Luz Fernandez 1,*


Plant-based (PB) diets are considered a healthy dietary pattern; however, eggs are not always included in this dietary regime. We hypothesized that the addition of two eggs per day would increase HDL cholesterol as well as plasma lutein, zeaxanthin and choline in individuals with metabolic syndrome (MetS). In this randomized controlled crossover intervention, we recruited  30 participants (49.3 ± 8 y) with MetS who followed a PB diet for 13 weeks. A registered dietitian advised all subjects on food selection and followed them through the intervention to ensure compliance. Participants underwent a 2-week washout with no eggs or spinach (a source of dietary lutein and zeaxanthin) and were randomly allocated to consume spinach (70 g) with either two eggs (EGG) or the equivalent amount of egg substitute (SUB) for breakfast for 4 weeks. After a 3-week washout, they were allocated the alternate breakfast. A total of 24 participants (13 women/11 men) finished the intervention. Plasma lipids, glucose, insulin, anthropometrics, plasma lutein, zeaxanthin, choline and trimethylamine oxide (TMAO) were assessed at baseline and the end of each intervention.

When we compared individuals consuming the EGG versus the SUB breakfast, we observed a lower body weight (p < 0.02) and a higher HDL cholesterol (p < 0.025) after the EGG diet. There were no differences in plasma LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose, insulin, or blood pressure. The number of large HDL particles measured by NMR was higher after EGG (p < 0.01) as compared to SUB. Plasma choline was higher in both treatments (p < 0.01) compared to baseline (8.3 ± 2.1 µmol/L).

However, plasma choline values were higher in EGG (10.54 ± 2.8 µmol/L) compared to SUB (9.47 ± 2.7 µmol/L) p < 0.025. Both breakfasts increased plasma lutein compared to baseline (p < 0.01), while plasma zeaxanthin was only increased in the egg intervention (p < 0.01). These results indicate that consuming a plant-based diet in combination with whole eggs increases plasma HDL cholesterol, choline and zeaxanthin, important biomarkers in subjects with MetS.

Keywords: metabolic syndrome; eggs; plant-based diet; spinach; lipids; lutein; zeaxanthin; choline;

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