When it comes to weight loss, it is well accepted that you need to increase your protein and decrease sugar and fast carbs. But the source of protein has been heavily debated.
Some argue that any protein will do, while others say that high-cholesterol proteins such as red meat and eggs do more harm than good by raising cholesterol levels and increasing your risk for cardiovascular disease.
In an effort to solve this conundrum, Australian researchers devised a study to determine the effect eggs had adults with type-2 diabetes. Specifically, they wondered if two high-protein, low-calorie diets with varying sources of protein would have comparable effects on cholesterol levels, glucose levels, weight loss and cardiovascular risk in diabetics.
Which Came First, the Cholesterol or the Egg?
Researchers divided 65 participants into two groups. Both groups ate a high-protein, 1,400-calorie-a-day diet. One group ate two eggs per day, while the other group was asked to avoid eggs and eat other lean sources of protein (meat, chicken or fish) for 12 weeks.
Both groups checked in with a dietary consultant every two weeks, where they received meal plans, dietary requirement instructions, and were given ideas on how to keep a food journal. These journals were also reviewed during these visits. Consultants took two midweek days and one weekend day to determine average/common dietary analysis for each participant. Finally, all participants were weighed during their visit.
Researchers noted several biomarkers at the beginning and end of the study. These included:
- Body composition
- Homocysteine (risk factor for heart disease)
- Carotenoid levels (antioxidants)
- Lutein levels (antioxidant found in eggs)
- Total cholesterol
- HDL cholesterol
- LDL cholesterol
- Apoprotein-B (cholesterol marker)
- Creatinine (diabetes marker)
- C-reactive protein (inflammation and heart disease marker)
- Vitamin B12
- Folic acid
- HbA1c (diabetes risk factor)
- Blood pressure
Participants also indicated if they were taking blood pressure, cholesterol or glucose-lowering medication, and noted their average physical activity levels.
Nothing Beats the Eggs
At the end of the 12 weeks, researchers found that both groups lost weight, with an average weight loss of 5.3 pounds in the egg group and 6.5 pounds in the lean protein group. Both groups also enjoyed significant and similar overall decreases in their fat mass.
When it came to LDL cholesterol, homocysteine and C-reactive protein, neither diet had a significant impact on any of these biomarkers.
Conversely, both diets significantly affected total cholesterol, apoprotein-B, triglyceride, glucose, HbA1c, vitamin B12 and carotenoid levels, as well as blood pressure levels. While these levels were all lowered by the high-protein, low-calorie diets, there was not a significant decrease between the two diets.
However, there were four areas were the diets did differ. When it came to insulin levels, the lean protein diet lowered levels by 18 percent, as compared to a 6 percent decrease in the egg group.
But when it came to folic acid and lutein, the egg group saw more dramatic increases than the lean protein group. And, most interesting was the fact that HDL cholesterol was increased significantly in the egg group versus the lean protein group. High HDL is a good thing, as a 1 percent increase in HDL levels is associated with a 3 percent decrease in risk of cardiovascular disease.
Given these findings, researchers concluded the high-protein diet, regardless of protein source, helped type 2 diabetics lose weight as well as improve cholesterol, blood pressure and glucose levels. In fact, not only did eggs fail to negatively impact cholesterol, they appeared to actually improve HDL cholesterol.
As a result, researchers believe that “a high-protein energy-restricted diet high in cholesterol from eggs may have nutritional benefits and assist in metabolic control in individuals with type 2 diabetes.”
The Incredible, Edible Egg
Ah, the return of the egg! This protein-packed delight is finally restored to glory.
There are so many amazing ways to get your two eggs a day. Of course, there’s the morning staple of scrambled, poached or steam-fried eggs. You can also make a veggie-packed frittata for lunch or dinner.
Then there’s the wonder that is the hard-boiled egg. You can slice in half and make deviled eggs, mash it for egg salad, slice it and put on top of a salad, or simply peel and enjoy.
However you like your eggs, relish in the fact that you can now enjoy them worry-free.
 Pearce, K et al. Egg consumption as part of an energy-restricted high-protein diet improves blood lipid and blood glucose profiles in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Br J Nutr. 2011 Feb;105(4):584-92.
 Boden, WE. High-density lipoprotein cholesterol as an independent risk factor in cardiovascular disease: assessing the data from Framingham to the Veterans Affairs High-Density Lipoprotein Intervention Trial. Am J Cardiol. 2000;86:19L-22L.