Eggs and Dairy Now “Heart Healthy”

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Do changes in official dietary advice make you crazy? Well, prepare to go nuts, because the advice is changing again: New studies find that eating eggs and dairy products does NOT contribute to diabetes or heart disease. These foods may, in fact, be protective.

A medical team in Boston “failed to see a significant association between eating eggs occasionally or almost daily and the development of type 2 diabetes,” a Reuters article reports. The study followed about 4,000 older men and women and was published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The upsetting thing is that this team is led by the same researcher as the team that published the original scare stories on eggs raising the risk of diabetes in 2008. Back then, they said that only about one egg a week was safe. I reported on this and probably helped stress a lot of readers out, and it turns out that it wasn’t true.

This time, lead researcher Luc Djoussé, MD, DSc, and his colleagues found no relationship between any amount of egg consumption and increased risk of Type 2 diabetes. According to Reuters, “they also found no link between dietary cholesterol overall and diabetes risk.”

How can two studies by some of the same researchers come to completely opposite conclusions? The earlier study looked at people who ate lots of eggs, seven or more per week. Maybe people who do that have unhealthful habits, or maybe they have a lot of stress. We don’t know, but my conclusion is not to give up foods based on one or two studies. I’ve written to Dr. Djoussé and will let you know when I hear back.

Milk OK Too
More bad news for vegans. A study from Sweden found that people who consumed more dairy had lower risk for heart attack. Researchers at Uppsala University evaluated 1,000 people, 444 of whom had had heart attacks. Women who consumed the most dairy had a 26% lower risk for heart attack. For men, risk was 9% lower.

According to the study authors, “dairy foods could actually benefit heart health, for example by lowering blood pressure or reducing cholesterol levels.” The study appears in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It reinforces the idea that cholesterol intake doesn’t have much to do with blood cholesterol levels. However, it’s worth noting that the study comes from Sweden, and most Scandinavians love their dairy. This finding may not apply to everyone.

More Evidence for Brown Rice
Score one for whole grains. An analysis of roughly 200,000 adults followed for as many as 22 years found that eating more refined white rice was linked with a higher risk of Type 2 diabetes. Study authors estimated that replacing white rice with whole grains could be associated with a risk reduction as great as 36%.

The study was done by scientists from Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. It was published in Archives of Internal Medicine.

“In general, the public should…try to replace refined carbohydrates, including white rice, with whole grains,” lead researcher Qi Sun, MD, ScD, told Reuters Health.

I am even more skeptical about this finding than about the dairy and egg reports. Dr. Sun’s team adjusted for body fat, smoking, physical activity, and other dietary factors, and the findings still held up. “This suggests that what we observed is unlikely the result of other factors,” said Sun.

But the study did not adjust for economic or social situation. Think about it. Who is more likely to eat brown rice; who can afford it, or take the extra time to cook it? Who can even afford the extra energy it takes to digest it? Most likely, the brown-rice-eaters tended to have more money and easier lives, which could account for most of their health advantage.

Hard scientists rarely consider social factors such as socioeconomic status, or SES. That’s one reason we have all these studies showing the ill effects of “obesity.” Poorer people tend to be heavier, at least in wealthier countries. Poor people also tend to be sicker, so we blame it on their behaviors or their weight. But if the studies don’t account for SES, they don’t mean much.

Not to say that whole grains aren’t good for most of us. I think they are. But just as with the earlier warnings about eggs and milk, don’t always trust the studies.

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