In a new round of testing, the nonprofit watchdog Environmental Working Group found the weedkiller glyphosate in all 21 cereal and snack products it sampled.
“All but four contained levels higher than what EWG considers protective for children’s health,” says Alexis Temkin, PhD, an EWG toxicologist and co-author of the new report, issued Wednesday.
Glyphosate is the main ingredient in Bayer-Monsanto’s weedkiller Roundup.
Monsanto took exception to the report and said its products contain safe levels of chemicals, well below federal limits. The FDA says its standard safe level of glyphosate ranges from 0.1 parts per million to 310 ppm.
The products meet the regulatory standards set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, Temkin says, but the EWG believes that the feds’ “tolerance limits are too high to adequately protect children’s health.”
The EWG first tested oat-based products in August 2018 and then again in October. It did the latest round to see if there has been any shift in the market or if oat-based foods still contain levels that were present before.
In general, the watchdog group found no differences.
In a statement, General Mills spokesperson Mike Siemienas says: “General Mills’ top priority is food safety and has been for over 150 years. Most crops grown in fields use some form of pesticides and trace amounts are found in the majority of food we all eat.”
What the New Tests Found
In the previous testing, including 94 samples of oat-based foods, glyphosate was detected in all but two samples, with 74 samples at levels above the EWG’s benchmark of 160 parts per billion (ppb). In the latest testing, ”we did 21 samples; four we had previously tested and 17 were new,” Temkin says.
Honey Nut Cheerios Medley Crunch, made by General Mills, had the highest levels, with 833 ppb, and regular Cheerios had 729 ppb.
Temkin says the EWG benchmark for children’s health of 160 ppb is calculated on how much of a substance would result in one additional case of cancer in every million people over a lifetime.
Nature Valley Fruit & Nut Chewy Trail Mix Granola Bar, Dark Chocolate & Nut, had the lowest results, with 76 ppb. Among other products sampled, Nature Valley Maple Brown Sugar granola bars had 566 ppb, Nature Valley Almond Butter Granola Cups had 529, and Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheerios had 400 ppb.
The EWG bought the products via online retail sites, shipping about 300 grams of each to an independent lab to analyze glyphosate levels.
Cancer-Causing or Not?
Are the levels worrisome or not? Experts disagree. The International Agency for Research on Cancer said in 2015 that glyphosate is ”probably carcinogenic to humans.”
The EPA says the chemical is not likely to cause cancer in people. In April, the EPA, while reviewing glyphosate, said it ”continues to find that there are no risks to public health when glyphosate is used in accordance with its current label and that glyphosate is not a carcinogen.”
Most crops grown in fields use some form of pesticides and trace amounts are found in the majority of food we all eat.
~ General Mills spokesperson Mike Siemienas
Glyphosate is a weedkiller and also helps ready crops for harvest. It promotes even drying so more of the crops can be harvested at the same time.
In recent years, some communities have banned the use of glyphosate. To date, three juries have awarded damages in cases involving the weedkiller and cancer. In May, a California jury ordered Monsanto to pay a couple more than $2 billion in damages.
Parents who are concerned can turn to organic products, Temkin says. “We do know that organic oats are going to have much lower levels, because the use of glyphosate is prohibited,” she says. Still, it’s no guarantee, since organic oats might be grown near fields where the weedkiller is used.
In a statement, Monsanto says: “The glyphosate levels in this report are far below the strict limits established by the Environmental Protection Agency to protect human health. Even at the highest level reported by the EWG (833 ppb), an adult would have to eat 158 pounds of the oat-based food every day for the rest of their life to reach the strict limits set by the EPA.”
General Mills’ Siemienas agrees.
“Experts at the FDA and EPA determine the safe levels for food products,” he says. “These are very strict rules that we follow as do farmers who grow crops. We continue to work closely with farmers, our suppliers and conservation organizations to minimize the use of pesticides on the ingredients we use in our foods.”
The allegations, he says, are the same as those made in previous EWG reports.
Article: Weedkillers in Cereals: What to Know
Environmental Working Group: “In New Round of Tests, Monsanto’s Weedkiller Still Contaminates Foods Marketed to Children,” June 12, 2019.
News release, EPA: “EPA Takes Next Step in Review Process for Herbicide Glyphosate, Reaffirms No Risk to Public Health,” April 30, 2019.
Alexis Temkin, PhD, toxicologist, Environmental Working Group.
The New York Times: “$2 Billion Verdict Against Monsanto Is Third to Find Roundup Caused Cancer.”
Statement, Monsanto, June 13, 2019.
Mike Siemienas, spokesperson, General Mills.
FDA.gov: “Questions and Answers on Glyphosate.”
Libby Mills, RDN, spokesperson, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Carl Winter, PhD, extension food toxicologist; vice chair, food science and technology, University of California, Davis.
United States Department of Agriculture: “Changes in Retail Organic Price Premiums from 2004 to 2010.”
United States Department of Agriculture: “Organic Production and Handling Standards.”
Trewavas, A. Crop Protection, September 2004.
Environmental Protection Agency: “Pesticides and Food.”
United States Department of Agriculture: “Organic Labeling Standards,” “Organic Agriculture,” “Organic Market Overview,” “Labeling Organic Product.”
Environmental Working Group: “EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce,” “FDA Bans Three Toxic Chemicals.”
Winter, C. Journal of Toxicology, May 2011.
North Carolina State University: “Strawberry Disease and Their Control.”
The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station: “Removal of Trace Residues from Produce.”
Krol, W. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, October 2000.
National Potato Commission: “US Per Capita Utilization of Potatoes.”
Srednicka-Tober, D. British Journal of Nutrition, March 2016.
American Cancer Society: “Teflon and PFOA.”
Crop Protection: “A critical assessment of organic farming-and-food assertions with particular respect to the UK and the potential benefits of no-till agriculture.”
Journal of Agromedicine: “Pesticide/Environmental Exposures and Parkinson’s Disease in East Texas.”
PLOS: “Choosing Organic Pesticides over Synthetic Pesticides May Not Effectively Mitigate Environmental Risk in Soybeans”
Colorado State University: “Pesticides: Natural Isn’t Always Best.”
British Journal of Nutrition: “Composition differences between organic and conventional meet; A systematic literature review and meta-analysis.”
PBS: “USA to propose standard for organic seafood raised in U.S.”
Food Standards Agency: “Pesticides.”
Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on June 14, 2019
Hard boiled egg + salad
Out of all the numerous topping options at the salad bar, pick up a hard boiled egg. The fat in the egg yolk helps your body best absorb carotenoids, disease-busting antioxidants found in veggies, according to 2015 research in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Count it as one more reason you should definitely eat the yolks.
Fries + veggies
You don’t want to have to choose between the steamed veggie or fries as a side. Why not get them both? Pairing a nutritious and less-nutritious food choice (officially called a ‘vice-virtue bundle’) can help you stick to your health goals, suggests research in the journal Management Science. One tip to balance the calories—keep your portion of fries/dessert/onion rings small or medium, suggest researchers. If you can order only one size and it’s jumbo, ask for half to be packed upie immediately in a to-go box—or portion out half the plate for a companion. The researchers found that people didn’t actually want to eat enormous piles of treats anyway.
Marinade + steak
Grilling is a quick and healthy way to get dinner on the table, no doubt. However, cooking meat at high temps (a la grilling) creates potentially cancer-causing compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs). The delicious solution: marinate your meat. Especially when you use certain herbs and spices in your marinade, including rosemary, it can reduce HCAs by up to 88 percent, according to a study from Kansas State University.
Olive oil + kale
Even though the buzz around heart-healthy fats like olive oil is good, you may still be trying to cut down on oil in an effort to save calories. But it’s time to start sauteeing your veggies again. ‘Vegetables have many fat-soluble vitamins, like A, D, E, and K, which means they need fat to be absorbed,’ explains culinary nutrition expert and healthy living blogger Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RDN, of Nutritioulicious. In addition to kale, make sure you cook carrots, sweet potatoes, and broccoli with a little fat too.
Almonds + yogurt
Vitamin D is credited with so many health benefits, including boosting your bones, mood, and immune function. Many yogurts supply one-quarter your daily need for D per cup. To make the most of it though, toss some slivered almonds on top before digging in—especially if you’re eating non- or low-fat yogurt. The fat in the nuts helps raise the levels of D found in your blood 32 percent more compared to having no fat at all, reveals research in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Sardines + spinach
The fatty fish is abundant in vitamin D, while spinach offers magnesium. In 2013 research, magnesium was shown to interact with the vitamin to boost levels of D in your body. Long-term, this may even help reduce risk of heart disease and colon cancer.
Turmeric + black pepper
You’ve no doubt heard the buzz around the anti-cancer properties of curcumin, the molecule in turmeric that gives the spice its yellow hue. Problem is, it can be difficult for your body to absorb and truly reap the benefits. Combining turmeric with black pepper—which isn’t hard to do in cooking—is a great way to up your body’s ability to use it by 2,000 percent, research shows.
Avocado + toast
If you’re participating in ‘Toast Tuesdays,’ you might have tried the much-obsessed over avocado toast. And it is delicious, FYI. The foods are a perfect match not just for their taste but because the fat from the avocado will slow the rate at which carbs are broken down, absorbed, and converted into sugar, points out Levinson. It’s simple: just spread avocado on whole grain toast and top with some sea salt and pepper (and even lemon juice or hot sauce) and you’re good to go. Add a fried egg for an extra protein boost.
Tomato sauce + spinach
Might as well pack more veggies into the sauce, right? Spinach contains iron, something you may need more of if you’re not eating meat (which is the most abundant source of the mineral). The catch? Iron is not easily absorbed from plant sources, so to tip the scales in your favor, you need to eat these plants with a source of vitamin C, according to Levinson. In this case, tomatoes provide the kick of vitamin C you need to best absorb your spinach. Try her recipe for tomato sauce with spinach, or opt for these other power duos: spinach salad with strawberries, beans and bell peppers, or tofu and broccoli.
Brown rice + lentils
If you’re vegetarian, you may have heard that you should eat certain foods together to ensure you’re getting a complete protein. It’s actually more important that you get a variety of plant proteins throughout the day rather than in one specific meal, says Levinson. Still, some combos are classics for a reason—together, they form a complete protein. Try a brown rice and lentil bowl, beans wrapped in corn tortillas, or nut butter slathered on whole grain bread.
Salmon + leafy greens
Greens to the rescue once more! Vitamin D and calcium are typically found together in dairy, and for good reason: Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, both of which are critical for bone health, points out Levinson. But if you don’t eat milk or yogurt, what do you do? Buy salmon and eat it atop a bed of cooked greens of your choice (sauteeing them cooks them down, making it easier to eat a bigger serving).
Brown rice + garlic + onion
Here’s a reason to make a stir-fry tonight: Garlic and onion help increase the availability of iron and zinc in whole grains, according to Levinson. You can thank the sulfur-containing compounds within the stinky alliums (garlic and onion) for the mineral boost, say researchers.
Carbonation + water
Think we’re getting one by you? If you have trouble getting yourself to drink plain H20, hear us out about why bubbles and water make an ideal match. One German study found that people who made carbonated water at home (think SodaStream), drank more water than those who didn’t—and bonus!—consumed less fat during the day, too.
Red wine + black pepper
The spice does it again. Black pepper contains a compound called piperine, which may help improve the bioavailability of resveratrol (the disease-busting antioxidant in red wine) to tissues, suggests an animal study published in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research. While it doesn’t seem like a natural pairing, simply drink a glass of vino with dinner, and keep the pepper mill handy. Bon appetit!
Green tea + lemon
When you give your cup a squirt of citrus, the vitamin C preserves green tea’s antioxidant catechins, helping them survive the harrowing journey through your digestive tract to where your body can absorb them—so you can reap the benefits from the brew—reveals Purdue University research.
Guacamole + salsa
Pass the chips, please. This is another perfect example of how the antioxidants in certain produce, like tomatoes, need a little fat in order to be absorbed. In fact, a study in the Journal of Nutrition found that eating avocado with salsa improved the absorption of lycopene and beta-carotene in the tomatoes by 4.4 and 2.6 times, respectively. It’s the perfect excuse to go for Mexican tonight.
Pistachios + raisins
When you think about it, trail mix makes lots of sense. Eating dried fruit and nuts together can help improve your metabolic health to help decrease your diabetes risk, suggests a review published in Nutrition Journal. Together, they supply fiber, vitamins, and minerals—and the fat from the nuts helps keep your blood sugar at an even keel. Try making your own custom trail mix instead of paying a premium for the pre-packaged kind.
Clean eating may be the buzziest health term on the Internet. But what does it mean? Unfortunately, that’s not always clear.
At the core of this credo is the advice author Michael Pollan famously gave a decade ago in his best-selling book In Defense of Food: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
And research shows that this kind of eating pattern can indeed improve health and help maintain a healthy weight. In 2014 David L. Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Public Health, published a study that compared some of the most popular diets. Katz says that there’s not enough evidence to determine the best specific diet — and there likely never will be.
But Katz was able to determine which general eating pattern is best for health. That would be a “diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants.” And this pattern turns out to be compatible with any evidence-based diet plan, from paleo to Mediterranean to vegan.
Choosing fresh foods over packaged and processed foods improves your health because processed foods are more likely to have added sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats, as well as fewer quality nutrients. And eating mostly plant-based foods ensures a rich assortment of nutrients while reducing those harmful ones.
So why not fully embrace clean eating?
For one, there are a growing number of unsubstantiated fad diets touting the benefits of eating clean. “Most fad diets are untested,” says Traci Mann, professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota and the author of Secrets from the Eating Lab. “They’re just things people think up and put in books. They should probably go in the fiction section.”
“The term has been co-opted to mean things like cleanses and detoxes and a whole potpourri of dietary restrictions that are unfounded, unsubstantiated, and unlikely to do anyone any good,” Katz says. “As it’s currently used, the term means next to nothing.”
“But I think it could mean something,” adds Katz. It could be used to describe a diet of “minimally processed foods without added chemicals. Food close to nature, from sources that are raised well.” This concept of clean eating would be a helpful one, he says.
How to Make Clean Eating Work for You
Choose more fresh whole foods, especially plant-based. Plan your meals around lots of fresh fruits and vegetables; legumes (like beans and lentils); nuts; seeds; and whole grains. If you eat meat, choose high-quality lean meat, poultry, or fish. “I recommend strategies to eat more healthy food, rather than trying to focus on resisting unhealthy food,” says Mann. “Eat a vegetable before you have any other food on your plate. Once you put a vegetable in head-to-head competition with any other food, it tends to lose that contest.”
You’ll probably eat less of the other stuff if you start by eating more vegetables. Mann also recommends reducing barriers to healthy foods and adding barriers to unhealthy ones. For example, have a snack of carrot sticks peeled and ready to eat, and keep cookies or candy out of sight and out of mind.
Trade up your packaged foods. Try to avoid packaged and processed foods and meats, as much as possible. However, most of us do rely on at least some convenience foods, like cereal or a frozen meal now and then. So try to select versions with as little processing as you can, made with healthier ingredients.
“Start by trading up individual foods,” Katz says. “There’s a massive spectrum of quality in every aisle of the supermarket.” Look for those that use whole grains. Try to avoid items with ingredients that you can’t pronounce or that you haven’t heard of. Look for options with lower sugar, salt, and fat. And if you choose to eat meat, pick foods closer to their natural state, such as a heat-and-eat chicken breast, instead of frozen chicken nuggets. Likewise, bread made by your local baker is likely healthier than industrially packaged bread.
Cook at home. Restaurants aim to please and load their foods with sugar, fat, and salt. But when people cook for themselves, they often use fresh, wholesome ingredients and keep it simple. Research shows that people who cook most of their meals at home consume less fat and sugar and fewer total calories than those who don’t. They also make better choices when they do go out.
Enjoy your food and eat mindfully. Think about the food you eat and prepare for yourself. Consider where it comes from and how it makes you feel. Notice the color, texture, taste, and smell of your food. These mindfulness strategies can help you slow down your meal and eat less, while enjoying healthful food more. Mann’s lab found that drinking coffee mindfully helped subjects enjoy the natural flavors more, which in turn helped them cut way back on sugar.
Skip These Unhelpful Clean Eating Fads
Avoid overly restrictive diets. Some of the most popular “clean eating” diets you’ll find online are extremely exclusive. The 30 Clean diet starts by banning all sweeteners, soy, dairy, grains, gluten, and corn, along with all processed foods. (It does allow for three small squares of dark chocolate and two alcoholic beverages a week — unless you opt for the Super Clean.) The Whole 30 allows you corn but eliminates the rest of those foods along with legumes. In practice, that means no fat-free yogurt, no brown rice, no sugar substitutes, no tofu — nary even a lentil. “The foods that are excluded are some of the most nutritious there are,” Katz says.
Research tells us that strict diets like this are difficult to keep. “They make your body think you’re starving to death,” says Mann. “And that leads to all these changes that make it hard to keep the weight off. Your metabolism changes. Suddenly you have to eat fewer calories to continue losing weight. Your hormones change, so you’re hungrier all the time,” she says. “And then there are the neurological effects where your attention becomes very focused on food.” This is why most people who do restrictive diets gain the weight back, and often more.
Stay clear of cleanses and detox diets. Clean Eating Magazine, 30 Clean, and The Eat Clean Diet’s author Tosca Reno all give tips for juice detoxes or cleanses, though there is no scientific evidence suggesting juice diets have any benefit. “Almost every claim I’ve ever seen about a cleanse or a detox is just confabulated nonsense,” says Katz. “The body is marvelously endowed with detox organs. They will take care of detoxing you better than you could hope to do out of a book by whoever the self-proclaimed guru du jour happens to be.”
Don’t do a diet that makes you feel guilty. Obsessing over the purest, cleanest foods, can make all other foods seem dirty. And that can be unhelpful. “Once you dichotomize your food into good/bad, virtuous/non-virtuous, that is problematic because that leads people to feel guilt or shame when they eat the bad category,” says Mann. That, she says, “can make you feel bad about yourself as a whole.” Clean eating diets tend to push for purity. The Whole 30 diet, for example, makes you start your 30-day challenge over if you cheat once.
We all want to eat better, but complicated fad diets may do more harm than good. Look for ways to make lasting improvements to your lifestyle, rather than temporary fixes. When it comes to clean eating, it might pay to remember Pollan’s words: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
D.L. Katz and S. Meller, “Can We Say What Diet Is Best for Health?”, Annual Review of Public Health, March, 2014.
Julia A. Wolfson and Sara N. Bleich, “Is cooking at home associated with better diet quality or weight-loss intention?,” Public Health Nutrition, June, 2015.
By Kevin McCarthy | March 13, 2017
is one of the essential keys to great health.
Fortunately, doing so is easier than you think.
The immune system is a complex system of organs, cells and proteins that work together to help protect us against foreign invaders, including: viruses, bacteria, fungi and other foreign substances we may come into contact with. We rarely give it a second thought until we’re burning up with a fever or fighting some form of serious infection.
There are many ways to keep your immune system strong and healthy, including:
- Avoid smoking and secondhand smoke
- Don’t drink alcohol
- Exercising regularly
- Getting sufficient sleep
- Reducing stress as much as possible
- Washing hands regularly and thoroughly
- Thoroughly cooking any meat, fish, or poultry in your diet
- Eating a diet rich in immune-boosting fruits and vegetables
BEST IMMUNE-BOOSTING FOODS
Most fruits and vegetables, as well as other plant-based foods, boost the immune system, but some are better at it than others. Some of the best immune-boosting foods include:
Rich in the immune-boosting mineral, zinc, beets along with their leafy greens, are a great addition to your diet. Beets are also a rich source of prebiotics, the foods eaten by probiotics, or beneficial microbes, in your intestines. By eating more beets you’ll feed the healthy bacteria and other beneficial microbes that give your gut and immune health a boost. Add them to fresh juice, grate and add to salads and sandwiches, or roast and enjoy on their own.
Blueberries don’t just taste amazing, they are packed with nutrients known as flavonoids that give them their gorgeous color and delicious taste. Research in the journal Advances in Nutrition shows that flavonoids boost the immune system. Eat fresh blueberries on their own or atop salads or added to smoothies. Frozen blueberries that have been slightly thawed taste like blueberry sorbet and make a delicious dessert.
Grapefruit, lemons, limes, oranges and other citrus fruit are excellent sources of immune-boosting vitamin C, making them excellent choices to include in your daily diet. Juice them or add them to salads or salad dressings, or in the case of grapefruit and oranges, eat them on their own as a quick snack.
Flaxseeds and Flaxseed Oil
Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil contain plentiful amounts of the essential fatty acids known as Omega 3s that give your immune system a boost and help to keep it functioning well on a regular basis. Add flaxseeds or oil to your smoothie or top previously-cooked vegetables with a splash of flax oil and sea salt.
Rich in immune-boosting allicin, garlic helps to stave off colds and flu by giving our immune system a boost. Cooking reduces the potency of garlic but both cooked and raw garlic are still worth eating on a daily basis. Add some garlic to your soups, stews, chili and, of course, combined with chickpeas, lemon juice, tahini, olive oil and a touch of salt for a delicious hummus.
A beverage similar to yogurt but thinner, kefir comes from the Turkish word “keif” which means “good feeling” probably because let’s face it: we feel better when we’re not sick. Kefir offers immune-boosting health benefits due to its many different strains of beneficial bacteria and yeasts. Make sure the one you choose contains “live cultures.”
The national dish of Korea, kimchi is a spicy condiment that has been found in research published in the Journal of Medicinal Food to offer immune-boosting benefits.
Pumpkin seeds contain plentiful amounts of the immune-boosting fats known as Omega 3s, along with the essential immune health mineral, zinc, making them an excellent choice to include in your diet. Throw them on top of your salads, grind them and add them to flour for baking, or snack on them as is.
Raw, unsalted walnuts are rich sources of immune-boosting Omega 3 fatty acids. If you don’t like the taste of walnuts, I urge you to try ones that are raw, unsalted and kept in the refrigerator section of your health food store since they are typically fresher than the ones found in packages in the center aisles of the grocery store. The bitter taste most people attribute to walnuts is actually a sign they have gone rancid. Fresh walnuts have a buttery and delicious taste.
Yogurt and vegan yogurt contain beneficial bacteria that boost your gut health, which in turn, boost your immune system health. Make sure the yogurt you select contains “live cultures.”
Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM is the publisher of the free e-newsletter World’s Healthiest News, the Cultured Cook, co-founder of BestPlaceinCanada, and an international best-selling and 20-time published book author whose works include: Be Your Own Herbalist: Essential Herbs for Health, Beauty, & Cooking. Follow her on Twitter.
Eating an egg a day may lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, a study of more than 400,000 adults in China suggests.
Daily egg eaters had an 18% lower risk of heardying from cardiovascular disease, which manifests as heart attacks and strokes, compared with adults who avoided eggs, according to the research published Monday in the journal Heart.
Commonly called heart disease, cardiovascular disease includes heart failure, arrhythmias and heart valve problems in addition to strokes and attacks. Raised blood pressure, carrying too much weight or obesity, and elevated blood sugar all contribute to the risk of cardiovascular disease, which is triggered by unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, smoking and harmful use of alcohol.
‘Controversial’ nutrition source
In the past, doctors sometimes warned patients to avoid eating too many eggs.
Though eggs contain high-quality protein and other positive nutritional components, they also have high amounts of cholesterol, which was thought might be harmful, explained Canqing Yu, a co-author of the study and an associate professor in the Peking University School of Public Health in Beijing.
Yet “existing studies on the association between egg and cardiovascular diseases are controversial due to small sample size and limited information,” Yu wrote in an email. Past studies have provided only limited evidence from the Chinese population, “which have huge differences in dietary habits, lifestyle behaviors and diseases patterns,” Yu said.
These are among the reasons why he and his colleagues decided to investigate the relationship between eating eggs and cardiovascular disease.
To begin, they used information from an ongoing study of half a million adults living in 10 regions of China. They concentrated on 416,213 participants who’d never been diagnosed with cancer, cardiovascular disease or diabetes.
Slightly more than 13% of these adults, ranging in age from 30 to 79, said they ate about an egg a day while just over 9% reported never or very rarely enjoying an egg. Nearly all the participants ate chicken, not duck, eggs, Yu noted.
Over nearly nine years, the research team tracked this select group. They focused on major coronary events, such as heart attacks and strokes, including hemorrhagic strokes – when a blood vessel bursts in the brain due, usually, to uncontrolled high blood pressure – and ischemic strokes – when a blood vessel feeding the brain becomes blocked, usually by a blood clot.
“Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of deaths in China, which accounted for half of the total mortality,” Yu said. “Stroke, including hemorrhagic and ischemic stroke, is the first cause of premature death, followed by ischemic heart disease.”
During follow-up, 9,985 people died of cardiovascular disease, and an additional 5,103 major coronary events occurred. Nearly 84,000 other participants were diagnosed with heart disease in this time period.
Analyzing the data, the researchers found that eating about an egg a day related to a lower risk of heart disease compared with not eating eggs.
In fact, participants who ate up to one egg daily had a 26% lower risk of hemorrhagic stroke, which is more common in China than in the United States or other high-income countries. Additionally, the egg eaters had a 28% lower risk of dying from this type of stroke.
Finally, egg eaters also enjoyed a 12% reduced risk of ischemic heart disease, which is diagnosed in those who show the early signs of gridlocked blood flow to the brain.
Based on the results, Yu said, eating eggs in moderation – less than one a day – is associated with a lower incidence of cardiovascular diseases, especially hemorrhagic stroke. Even more, the new research is “by far the most powerful project to detect such an effect,” he said.
On the downside, the research team collected only “crude information” about egg consumption from participants, and this prevented them from estimating effects “more precisely,” Yu said. “We should [also] be cautious when interpreting our results in a context of different dietary and lifestyle characteristics from China.”
Part of a healthy diet
Caroline Richard, an assistant professor of agricultural life and environmental sciences at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, said the new study is simply observational and so cannot show a direct cause and effect between eating eggs and risk of heart disease.
“Saying that, this is a very large study, and that in itself is a strength, and the researchers have done the best possible job to control for other factors,” said Richard, who was not involved in the research.
Her own systematic review of studies showed that when participants are provided with between six and 12 eggs a week, no change occurs in major cardiovascular risk factors, including higher rates of blood sugar, inflammation and cholesterol.
“Several studies in our review observed a positive effect of egg consumption on HDL cholesterol,” or “good” cholesterol, she added.
The new study, then, “delivers a similar message” that “egg consumption does not increase the risk of developing a cardiovascular disease,” Richard said.
Some studies have suggested that consuming eggs increases the risk of diabetes, she said.
“In this study however, they didn’t assess the risk of developing diabetes, which may be because diabetes is a newer disease in the Chinese population and there is not good documentation of who has it,” Richard said. Still, she noted, “this will be very important data for helping develop dietary prevention guidelines in China.”
Cardiovascular disease, which takes the lives of 17.7 million people every year, is the leading cause of death and disability worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Cardiovascular disease causes nearly a third – 31% – of all global deaths each year.
“Overall, I would say that consuming egg as part of a healthy diet does not increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, and we now have another carefully done study to support that,” Richard said.
Health often seems like a numbers game. What’s your blood-sugar level? How many calories are you eating? And are you getting the right percentage of macros (or macronutrients)? The problem is that sometimes we track, count and obsess over numbers that don’t matter very much for our overall health. Or worse, we ignore numbers that do matter.
I was curious about which numbers my fellow dietitians consider the most important. I sought feedback from 20 experts who work in either hospitals or private practice. Here are the data that have the most clinical importance, and the ones they tell their patients to ignore.
The numbers that matter most:
Half your plate. Instead of counting every calorie, dietitians recommend that clients simplify food decisions by using a plate model, where you choose the right proportions of each food. That means filling half your plate with vegetables and some fruit; one quarter with protein-rich foods such as fish, poultry or beans; and the final quarter with whole grains such as quinoa or brown rice. The Healthy Eating Plate from Harvard University is a great example of a plate model.
25 to 35 grams. That’s how much fibre a day we need for optimal health, but most Americans get just 16 grams per day. Getting enough fibre helps lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels, prevents certain cancers, eases constipation and keeps you feeling full for longer, which is helpful for weight management. Get more fibre from vegetables, fruit, beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains (or just follow the healthy-plate model, mentioned above).
7 to 8 hours. Are you getting that much sleep every night? Lack of sleep has short-term consequences, such as poor judgment, increased risk of accidents, bad moods and less ability to retain information. Poor sleep over the long term has been linked to an increased risk of obesity, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. So, turn off the TV, power down your devices and get the rest your body needs.
150 minutes. That’s the recommendation for how much physical activity (equivalent to 2.5 hours) you should get each week, preferably spread through the week in increments of at least 10 minutes. This level of activity helps combat heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, obesity, dementia and cancer.
100 mg/dl. Your doctor can test your fasting plasma glucose level to check for Type 2 diabetes (a normal reading is less than 100 mg/dl). Often called a “lifestyle” disease, Type 2 diabetes is largely preventable by eating well and getting enough exercise. If you have diabetes, lifestyle changes can actually help you reverse the diagnosis — but first you need to know your number. A diagnosis of prediabetes is 100 to 125 mg/dl., and a diagnosis of diabetes is 126 mg/dl. or higher.
120/80 mmHg. High blood pressure is known as the silent killer because it often has no obvious symptoms. Left untreated, high blood pressure is a risk factor for having a heart attack or a stroke. That’s why you need to get your blood pressure checked and know whether you are at risk. Normal blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg (millimetres of mercury) or less. Elevated blood pressure is 121 to 129 over 80. High blood pressure is 130 to 139 over 80 to 89.
The numbers that don’t matter very much:
Size 8. Too many people have a diet goal to be a specific size, but the numbers on clothes are inconsistent and arbitrary. A size 4 at one store may fit like a size 8 at a different store, which makes shopping frustrating — and makes your pant or shirt size a very poor measure of your health. If you don’t like the number on your pants, cut the label out. Focus on how you feel, not the number on the clothing tag.
50 years old. Or 86. Or 31, 75 or 27. Age is just a number. You are never too young to need to take care of yourself, or too old to start an exercise program or change what you eat. A healthy lifestyle is important at every age.
1,800 calories. Or whatever number you choose. You don’t need to count every calorie you eat — it’s tedious, often flawed, and it doesn’t help you choose nutrient-dense foods. If you had the choice between 100 calories of broccoli or fries, you’d probably choose the fries, right? But that wouldn’t provide much nourishment and oversimplifies eating into one silly number. If you are a lifelong calorie counter, there’s no need to give it up, but remember that it’s not the most vital number for your overall health.
40-30-30. Or any other ratio of macronutrients, the umbrella term for carbs, protein and fat. Keeping track of macros is a popular diet, and if it works for you, fantastic! But some dietitians warn that it’s difficult to know the precise macro content of every food you eat, which leads to obsessive use of food diaries and macro-counting apps. This promotes a dieting mentality, rather the concept of enjoying food from a balanced plate. There’s nothing magical about counting macros. It’s just a diet.
Below 25. The body mass index (BMI) is a clinical tool that groups people in categories of normal weight, overweight or obese depending on their height and weight. But BMI doesn’t take age, gender or bone structure into account, and athletes are often classified as overweight because BMI doesn’t distinguish between muscle and fat! So, don’t rely on this number as your primary measure of health.