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Are Eggs a Healthy Breakfast Choice

  • Synopsis: Published: 2011-08-08 (Revised/Updated 2015-04-19) - Are eggs as a breakfast food healthy or are they a high cholesterol trap the answer depends on what the hen eats says a Tel Aviv University researcher. For further information pertaining to this article contact: American Friends of Tel Aviv University.

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Quote: "In the USA, many people choose to skip breakfast or choose low protein foods because of lack of high protein convenient choices."

Are eggs as a breakfast food healthy or are they a high cholesterol trap the answer depends on what the hen eats says a Tel Aviv University researcher.

Eggs, one of the most commonly consumed breakfast foods in the United States, have long been a subject of controversy. Are they healthy or are they a high-cholesterol trap? The answer depends on what the hen eats, says a Tel Aviv University researcher.

Dr. Niva Shapira of Tel Aviv University's School of Health Professions says that all eggs are not created equal. Her research indicates that when hens are fed with a diet low in omega-6 fatty acids from a young age - feed high in wheat, barley, and Milo and lower in soy, maize and sunflower, safflower, and maize oils - they produce eggs that may cause less oxidative damage to human health. That's a major part of what determines the physiological impact of the end product on your table. Her findings were published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Cholesterol oxidation: an industry standard

Eggs high in omega-6 fatty acids heighten cholesterol's tendency to oxidize, which forms dangerous plaque in our arteries. Dr. Shapira's research shows that eggs laid by hens with healthier feed can lessen oxidation of LDL (low density lipoprotein), the body's "bad cholesterol."

But healthier eggs are likely to cost more, Dr. Shapira says.

The price of chicken feed varies from region to region, and in many areas, feed containing products high in omega-6 fatty acids, such as maize, soy, and their oils, are much cheaper for egg producers to purchase.

To test the effect of a healthier feed on the eventual composition of the egg, Dr. Shapira and her fellow researchers designed feeds that were high in anti-oxidants and lower in omega-6 fatty acids, based on wheat, barley, and milo. The specialized feed was given to young hens who had not yet accumulated n-6 fatty acids in their tissues, and the composition of their eggs was then tested. When researchers achieved the desired composition of low omega-6 and high anti-oxidants, the eggs were given to test participants, who were instructed to eat two of these special eggs daily. Their results were measured against daily intake of two standard grocery store eggs, and a weekly intake of only two to four standard eggs.

There were vast differences in outcome among the treatments.

Daily consumption of two industry-standard eggs, high in omega-6, caused a 40 percent increase in LDL oxidizability in participants. After eating two per day of the specially-composed eggs, with both high anti-oxidant and low omega-6 levels, however, LDL oxidation levels were similar to the control group eating only two to four eggs a week.

Surprisingly, with the "healthier" eggs, we might be able to eat more than twice today's generally recommended egg intake and still maintain a healthy level of LDL oxidation, Dr. Shapira concludes.

Demanding a better product:

The drawback is that these eggs aren't being widely produced. For now, consumers can only buy what the grocery store stocks.

Dr. Shapira recommends that consumers demand "health-oriented agriculture." "In addition to factoring in the cost of the chicken feed, farmers need to think about the health of the consumer," she says. To produce healthy foods, they need support from local authorities and increased consumer awareness. That would help to expand access to better foods.

As her study demonstrates, consumers should beware of egg studies that draw a single conclusion about the health value of all eggs, Dr. Shapira cautions, because the outcome could have a lot to do with how the egg was produced. In Europe, corn and soy are less commonly used in chicken feed, whereas in North America, these two ingredients often make up the bulk of the hen's diet.

Protein-rich breakfast helps to curb appetite throughout the morning (University of Missouri-Columbia Study)

While Americans generally consume enough protein, they tend to eat a small amount at breakfast, moderate amounts at lunch, and the largest amount at dinner. New research presented at The Obesity Society's annual scientific meeting in Atlanta shows that eating high protein sausage and egg-based breakfasts curbed hunger throughout the morning, compared with a low-protein breakfast (pancakes and syrup) or skipping breakfast, in 18-55-year-old women.

"Eating a breakfast rich in protein significantly improves appetite control and may help women to avoid overeating later in the day," said Kevin C. Maki, principal investigator of the study and a research scientist with Biofortis Clinical Research, a Merieux Nutri-Sciences company.

All of the breakfast meals contained approximately 300 calories and similar quantities of fat and fiber. The protein-rich breakfast bowls contained 30 to 39 grams of protein. Participants completed questionnaires to rate aspects of appetite - such as hunger, fullness, and desire to eat - before breakfast and at 30 minute intervals between breakfast and lunch. A standard lunch meal of tortellini and sauce was served and subjects were asked to eat until comfortably full. Study participants had improved appetite ratings (lower hunger, more fullness, less desire to eat) throughout the morning after eating each protein-rich breakfast, and also ate fewer calories at lunch, compared with the low-protein breakfast and breakfast skipping (water only).

"In the USA, many people choose to skip breakfast or choose low protein foods because of lack of high protein convenient choices. These results demonstrate that commercially prepared convenient protein-rich meals can help women feel full until lunch time and potentially avoid overeating and improve diet quality," said Heather Leidy, an assistant professor specializing in appetite regulation at the University of Missouri and a co-author on the study.

The research entitled, "Acute Satiety Effects of Sausage/Egg-based Convenience Breakfast Meals in Pre-menopausal Women ," was presented at the Obesity Society's annual scientific meeting in Atlanta on Nov. 14, 2013. The study was a joint effort by Biofortis Clinical Research, Chicago, a division of Merieux Nutri-Sciences, and the University of Missouri's Department of Exercise Physiology and Nutrition, Columbia, MO.

Related Information:

  1. Eggs for Breakfast Reduces Daily Calorie Consumption
  2. Lower Cholesterol Level in Eggs
  3. High Protein Egg Breakfasts Help Teen Obesity


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