Eating eggs may reduce risk of type 2 diabetes

Men who eat more eggs may be at lower risk for developing type 2 diabetes than men who eat fewer eggs, according to research in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Findings of the prospective, population-based cohort study of middle-aged and older men in eastern Finland contradicted several past studies that identified either a direct association between higher egg intake and type 2 diabetes or no association at all, according to researchers.

“Contrary to some other study populations, egg intake in this population is not associated with unhealthier lifestyle and dietary factors, such as smoking, low physical activity or higher intake of processed meats, which may explain the inverse association with egg intake,” Jyrki Virtanen, PhD, of the Institute of Public Health and Clinical Nutrition at University of Eastern Finland, told Endocrine Today.

Jyrki Virtanen

Jykri Virtanen

Virtanen and colleagues analyzed the dietary habits of 2,332 men aged 42 to 60 years participating in the Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease Risk Factor (KIHD) Study at University of Eastern Finland in 1984 through 1989. Over an average 19.3-year follow-up period, 432 participants were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Researchers found a lower risk for type 2 diabetes with increasing egg intake (P for trend across quartiles < .001) after adjustments for age, examination year and energy intake. Men who ate approximately four eggs per week had a 37% lower risk for type 2 diabetes than men who ate approximately one egg per week (absolute risk in the lowest quartile, 21%; absolute risk reduction in third quartile, 13.2%). Each additional egg per day up to three eggs was associated with a 30% lower risk (HR = 0.7; 95% CI, 0.55-0.9) when evaluated continuously.

The lower risk remained after adjustments for physical activity, BMI, smoking and the consumption of fruits and vegetables. The consumption of more than four eggs did not bring any significant additional benefits, according to researchers.

“There is no need for a generally healthy person to avoid eggs,” Virtanen said. “However, those with established type 2 diabetes should still limit egg intake, because some other studies have found a higher risk of [cardiovascular disease] with higher egg intake among those with type 2 diabetes.”

More research is needed from population studies that include detailed information regarding egg intake and participants who are hyper-responders to dietary cholesterol, such as those with an APO-E4 genotype, Virtanen said.

“Also, more clinical trials with increased egg intake are needed among those with type 2 diabetes to elucidate whether limitation of eggs is justified among diabetics,” Virtanen said. – by Regina Schaffer

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.

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