March 8, 2021

An Important Update on Eggs and Type 2 Diabetes

President's Blog
Margaret Hudson
President, Burnbrae Farms
4th Generation Farmer

Nutrition is a living science that is constantly being researched and explored. While some nutrition tenets are now accepted as fact – such as the importance of eating vegetables or getting enough vitamin D – other nutrition news tends to flip-flop.

That’s why one of my important roles as President & CEO of Burnbrae Farms is to keep up-to-date on the nutritional science of eggs and human health. One of the areas of research that’s always being explored is the link between eggs, heart health and type 2 diabetes.

While studies show that seven eggs a week are part of a healthy diet, there has been some question as to whether this is also true for people with type 2 diabetes. Past studies have shown that people with (or at risk of) type 2 diabetes may need to limit their intake of eggs to less than seven per week, due to observational evidence of an association between higher egg intake and an increased risk of heart disease.

I wrote about this topic back in 2018, which you can read here . That post covered a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which tested a high-egg diet and a low-egg diet in people with type 2 diabetes. It found those who ate up to 12 eggs a week had no differences in blood cholesterol or blood sugar levels, and found eggs were fine for people with type 2 diabetes.

Today’s piece will look at the studies that have taken place since then, beginning with a 2020 study published in the Journal Public Health Nutrition. It reviewed the consistency and gaps in the prior studies on eggs, heart health and diabetes. In this review:

-   Fifteen studies found no association between increased egg intake and risks of heart disease.

-   Five studies reported no increased risk of type 2 diabetes in the general population.

The authors concluded that increased egg consumption is not associated with cardiovascular disease risk in the general population, but still say that more research is needed on egg intake for people with type 2 diabetes before firm conclusions can be made. Research is ongoing.

In an editorial published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition , Dr. Mahshid Dehghan and Dr. Salim Yusuf from the Population Health Research Institute at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, combed through the research on eggs and diabetes. They concluded that an egg a day is a safe and affordable part of a healthy diet.

They point to a 2020 meta-analysis of 16 cohort studies in which no significant association was found between egg consumption and diabetes overall. They add that associations differed by geographic region, with an increased risk per daily egg consumption in USA studies, but neutrality in Europe, and a lower risk in Asia. Interesting!

That’s easily explained, say Dehgahn and Yusuf. Egg consumption in the USA reflects a “Western diet,” which is associated with higher diabetes risk and more ultra-processed foods. So, it is difficult to separate the effect of eggs independent of whole diet, even when the researchers adjust for different types of foods. By contrast, the diet in many Asian countries has a healthier pattern, which may account for the different results – independent of eggs. It’s the whole diet that matters.

Dehghan and Yusuf also say that more studies need to be done to look specifically at how people’s genetic make up or metabolism may affect how eggs affect their health, and those studies are certainly underway.

A recent study published in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research looked at how egg intake and metabolism may impact the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This study found that eating one egg every day seems to associate with a blood metabolite profile that is related to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

What’s a metabolite? It’s a substance produced during food breakdown, and this study showed that metabolites may be a factor as to how many eggs people can eat. The researchers found certain compounds in blood that predicted a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, including the amino acid tyrosine, but that people who ate eggs had a different blood metabolite profile. They determined that people metabolize and break down foods differently, and the question “how many eggs can I eat?” may not have a one-size-fits-all answer.

Research remains ongoing in the areas of eggs, heart health and diabetes, and I will continue to share the research with you as it develops.

Margaret Hudson

President & CEO, Burnbrae Farms