Egg Industry Caught Making False Claims

Egg Industry Caught Making False Claims
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On the basis of concerns from the American Heart Association and consumer groups, the Federal Trade Commission carried out successful legal action—upheld by the Supreme Court—to compel the egg industry to cease and desist from false and misleading advertising that eggs had no harmful effects on health.

Over the years, cholesterol concerns resulted in severe economic loss through a reduction in egg consumption, so the egg industry created a “National Commission on Egg Nutrition” to combat the public health warnings with ads that said things like “There is no scientific evidence whatsoever that eating eggs in any way increases the risk of heart attack.” The U.S. Court of Appeals found such outright deception patently false and misleading.

Even the tobacco industry wasn’t that brazen, trying only to introduce the element of doubt, arguing that the relationship between smoking and health remains an open question. In contrast, the egg ads made seven claims, each of which was determined by the courts to be blatantly false. The Court determined the egg industry ads were “false, misleading, and deceptive.” Legal scholars note that, like Big Tobacco, the egg industry did more than just espouse one side of a genuine controversy, but flatly denied the existence of scientific evidence.

Over the last 36 years, the American Egg Board has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to convince people eggs are not going to kill them—and it’s working. From one of their internal strategy documents that I was able to get a hold of: “In combination with aggressive nutrition science and public relations efforts, research shows that the advertising has been effective in decreasing consumers concerns over eggs and cholesterol/heart health.”

Currently, they’re targeting moms. Their approach is to “surround moms wherever they are.” They pay integration fees for egg product placement in TV shows. To integrate eggs into The Biggest Loser, for example, could be a million dollars, according to their internal documents. Getting some kids storytime reading program to integrate eggs may only take half a million, though. The American Egg Board keeps track of who is, and is not, a “friend-of-eggs.” They even pay scientists $1500 to sit and answer questions like, “What studies can help disassociate eggs from cardiovascular disease?”

From the beginning, their arch nemesis was the American Heart Association, with whom they fought a major battle over cholesterol. In documents retrieved through the Freedom of Information Act featured in my 6-min video Eggs and Cholesterol: Patently False and Misleading Claims, you can see even the USDA repeatedly chastises the egg industry for misrepresenting the American Heart Association position. In a draft letter to magazine editors, the egg industry tried to say that the “American Heart Association changed its recommendations to approve an egg a day in 2000 and eventually eliminated its number restrictions on eggs in 2002,” to which the head of USDA’s poultry research and promotion programs had to explain that the “change” in 2000 wasn’t a change at all. Nothing in the guidelines or recommendations was changed. What happened was that in response to a question posed by someone planted in the audience, Heart Association reps acknowledged that even though eggs are among the most concentrated source of cholesterol in the diet, an individual egg has under 300mg of cholesterol and could technically fit under the 300 mg daily limit. In 2002, they eliminated the specific mention of eggs for consistency sake, but the American Heart Association insists that they haven’t changed their position and continue to warn consumers about eggs.

The guidelines on the AHA website at the time explained that since one egg has 213 and the limit for people with normal cholesterol is 300 you could fit an egg in if you cut down on all other animal products. If you have an egg for breakfast, for example, and some coffee, some skinless turkey breast for lunch, etc., you could end up at over 500 by the end of the day, nearly twice the recommended limit. So if you are going to eat an egg, the Heart Association instructed, we would need to “substitute vegetables for some of the meat, drink our coffee black, and watch for hidden eggs in baked goods.” Furthermore, the limit for folks with high cholesterol is 200mg a day, which may not even allow a single egg a day.

This is how the senior director of nutrition education at the American Egg Board’s Egg Nutrition Center characterized the American Heart Association guidelines: “Maybe I’m being overly sensitive, but this reads like: ‘If you insist on having those deadly high cholesterol eggs your penalty will be to eat vegetables and you can’t even have the yummy steak and creamy coffee you love. Really it’s not worth eating eggs. Oh, and if you think you’ll be able to enjoy some delicious baked goods, forget it, the deadly eggs are there too!’”

I shared some of my other Freedom of Information Act finds in my other egg videos, Eggs vs. Cigarettes in Atherosclerosis, and my personal favorite, Who Says Eggs Aren’t Healthy or Safe?

I’ve also explored the presence of carcinogenic chemicals in eggs (Heterocyclic Amines in Eggs, Cheese, and Creatine?), carcinogenic viruses (Carcinogenic Retrovirus Found in Eggs), industrial pollutants (Food Sources of Perfluorochemicals and Food Sources of PCB Chemical Pollutants), the egg-borne annual epidemic of Salmonella (Total Recall), arachidonic acid (Chicken, Eggs, and Inflammation), misleading claims about eyesight nutrients (Egg Industry Blind Spot), and, of course, cholesterol (Egg Cholesterol in the Diet and What Women Should Eat to Live Longer).

To my surprise, though, eggs are actually not the most concentrated dietary source of cholesterol. See Avoiding Cholesterol Is a No Brainer.

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here and watch my full 2012 – 2014 presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More than an Apple a Day, and From Table to Able.

Image credit: Nick Wheeler/ Flickr

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  • joeboosauce

    Dr G, I love it when you cover industry-speak and debunk their nonsensical claims! I’d like to see even more of this from you. Keep up the GREAT work!

  • Bob

    Eggs nor Cholesterol is BAD – the problem is peoples lifestyles and the lack of fresh vegetables juices and the inclusion of processed foods. People lack the vitamins, minerals, fats, and enzymes in their diets to remain healthy – we need cholesterol to live, saying it’s bad is like saying oxygen is detrimental to you – what we need is a holistic approach to health working to keep the BODY in balance – with that then health is assured.

    • Q

      What science are you following?

    • luvmydog

      would love to see the rebuttal here. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3538567/

    • Healthy Longevity

      It is blatantly obvious that those who claim that elevated cholesterol is healthy on the basis that the body requires some cholesterol in order to maintain bodily function are trolls. This is as ridiculous as claiming that being morbidly obese is healthy because the body requires some body fat, or that there is no such thing as iron-overdose, because iron is an essential nutrient. There is no dietary requirement for dietary cholesterol, the human body an make all the necessary cholesterol.

      • AndyF

        How is it obvious?

        This study seems to cast doubt on the strength of your claim it is such an open and shut case.

        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3538567/

      • AndyF

        “…evidence indicates that dietary cholesterol (at current intakes) does not increase the risk of heart disease in healthy individuals”

        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3648753/

        • Dagmar Dvorska

          I agree. It has been known for several years now that the dietary cholesterol has little to do with the blood cholesterol levels. Instead, it is the excess intake of saturated fats that might increase bad cholesterol, among other factors. We call this a storm in a teaspoon of water – pointless storm about things that are irrelevant. All this is just pro-vegan egg anti-propaganda. Come on!

          • Thea

            Dagmar: If you are interested in what the actual science has to say on the subject, I will repeat for you the excellent post from AM95. The Plant Positive video (first link below) shows something like 19 very convincing studies on linking dietary cholesterol to blood cholesterol levels or other heart-attack predictor factors. Plant Positive even covers the study that people like to use when they say that eating dietary cholesterol just means your body makes less.

            “This one in particular is
            pretty good at demonstrating how dietary cholesterol impacts serum cholesterol:
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oWP-JDgAnvg&feature=youtu.be

            Healthy-longevity, who
            posted earlier in this thread, has a couple good writes up related to eggs and
            cholesterol as well: http://healthylongevity.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/cracking-down-on-eggs-and-cholesterol_7.html

            http://healthylongevity.blogspot.com/2013/04/cracking-down-on-eggs-and-cholesterol.html

            ” from AM95

          • Dagmar Dvorska

            Well, I have started to watch this video. In order to make my opinion, I will have to examine the individual studies myself and then to make a conclusion. Some one-sided opinion, especially from vegan/vegetarian enthusiast is not authoritative to me, especially when his consensus is based on 30 years old studies. Meanwhile, at the minute 7:11 the speaker says, that according one doctor the ApoB is the primary driver of atherosclerosis – I DO NOT AGREE with this statement. ApoB is one of the risk factors and indicator of the direction of lipoprotein formation – towards LDL instead of HDL, for which the ApoA is characteristic. There are also more ApoB forms than only one. For atherosclerosis to occur, the bad lipoproteins are needed, but only these will not cause atherosclerosis. For atherosclerosis to develop, the endothelium has to be damaged, whether by inflammation or hypertension, oxidation of lipoproteins and their calcification must occur. Just having a little elevated LDL or ApoB, is not enough. When you send a child to school and the child will get hit by car, you cannot make yourself a driving factor in having your child harmed.

          • Dagmar Dvorska

            Meanwhile I have recalled from other studies examining fructose and metabolic syndrome: those from 1980s announced that the average fat consumption that time was 42% of total daily calories. Today we have it about 30-35, according to the surveys. So if the old studies listed in that video talk about normal diet of people PLUS the eggs, it might be the effect of surplus fat calories, not just cholesterol alone.

          • fruitbat

            So a vegan promoting a plant based diet is “propaganda” and lacks credibility to you, but necrotarians promoting animal products is totally credible. What a bigot you are.

            For the record, stating that the egg industry has been forced to stop claimed that eggs are NOT a health risk is merely stating a fact, not “propaganda”.

          • Dagmar Dvorska ANutr

            You are apparently having a problem understanding the context, aren’t you? Check the definition and explanation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaganda
            Particularly this section is relevant to my statement: “Propaganda is information that is not impartial and used primarily to influence an audience and further an agenda, often by presenting facts selectively”. I did not comment on which propaganda is better as you have tried to put into my mouth. That is all. Have a nice day.

          • Tommasina

            Hey fruitbat and Dagmar, I appreciate your enthusiasm for each of your points, but let’s keep it friendly, okay? Name calling (i.e. “bigot”) is not allowed on this site. Thank you!

      • Bob

        No it’s a fact and arguing with the ignorant who refuse to believe anything other than told is fruitless

    • Teresa Folds

      Our bodies make all the cholesterol that we need. Just more proof that we do not need to consume any cholesterol at all.

    • fruitbat

      We make all the cholesterol we need. Animals that have evolved to eat meat, such as dogs and cats, will never develop cholesterol problems no matter how much cholesterol you feed them.

      • Bob

        There is NO evolved animal – evolution – Yahweh Spoke Creation into existence.

        Proverbs 11.1 A false balance is abomination to יהוה: but a just weight is his delight.

  • AndyF

    I understood that the link between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol levels and indeed coronary heart disease had not been conclusively demonstrated — except in the case of certain higher risk groups such as diabetics.

    see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3538567/

    Which study suggests, as this article asserts, that the cholesterol you eat directly impacts your blood cholesterol and more importantly, that blood cholesterol is a reliable indicator of potential cardiovascular disease risk?

    I have seen studies that appear to suggest that the correlation is quite unclear, and possibly very misleading.

  • Michael Rocchio

    Are egg whites also a health hazard?

  • Matt

    How do you explain that the liver can make far more cholesterol than a person could eat on a daily basis then? High cholesterol means unhealthiness. Cholesterol acts as a bandaid to protect the body from damage.I’m willing to bet a person who eats no processed foods, wheat, dairy and high amounts of fruits and vegetables, exercises regularly, but eats organic eggs is FAR better off the person who eats processed crap, GMO and pesticide ridden fruits and vegetables and sits on their couch watching TV instead of exercising.

    Besides, the yolk contains the cholesterol, egg whites are pretty much pure protein.

    • Thea

      Matt: There is overwhelming evidence that dietary cholesterol (the cholesterol you eat as opposed to the cholesterol your body makes naturally) does us harm. If you want to hear a detailed explanation including a large series of studies that show again and again and again how this true, check out the following video (thanks AM95):

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oWP-JDgAnvg&feature=youtu.be

      As for egg whites, it is indeed protein, but kicker is that it is pure *animal* protein. We have great evidence, with new studies coming out all the time, that animal protein causes harm, especially encouraging cancer growth. For a good explanation of how animal protein affects cancer growth, you might check out the IGF-1 video series on this site:
      • IGF-1 as One-Stop Cancer Shop
      • Cancer-Proofing Mutation
      • The Answer to the Pritikin Puzzle
      • Protein Intake & IGF-1 Production
      • Higher Quality May Mean Higher Risk
      • Animalistic Plant Proteins
      • Too Much Soy May Neutralize Benefits
      • How Much Soy Is Too Much?
      • Plant-Based Bodybuilding
      (Thanks Darryl for putting together the list)

      Hope that helps.

    • fruitbat

      Our liver can make all the cholesterol it needs because we don’t need to eat it. Unlike carnivores, who can consume infinite amounts of cholesterol without developing cholesterol problems.

      A whole egg weighing 50g contains just 6.3g of protein. So I’m not sure how egg whites can be “pretty much pure protein”.

  • Metin Erman

    And of course nobody bothers to note that eggs are high in lecithin, natures defense against cholesterol which binds to it and flushes it out of the system, rendering this argument invalid.

    • Thea

      Metin: In the following video, Plant Positive shows the results of a study that fed eggs to people. In the study, the effect you are talking about did not exist. The eggs caused significant elevated cholesterol in the study participants. Check it out:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oWP-JDgAnvg&feature=youtu.be

  • Plantstrongdoc M.D.

    Actually it is easy to disassociate eggs from cardiovascular disease – dont eat them….

  • Mr. and Mrs. M.

    Hey Dear Folks, since egg whites are good protien, why not do what we have been doing for years and throw away the yolks? It is wasteful, conscience pang! But we find it is cheaper than buying the prepared product where someone has taken out the yolks for you and put the whites all together in a little carton. I don´t want to open that many at a time anyway. Talk about no-brainers.

    • Thea

      Mr. and Mrs. M.

      Egg whites: They are indeed protein, but kicker is that it is pure *animal* protein. We have great evidence, with new studies coming out all the time, that animal protein causes harm, especially encouraging cancer growth. For a good explanation of how animal protein affects cancer growth, you might check out the IGF-1 video series on this site:
      • IGF-1 as One-Stop Cancer Shop
      • Cancer-Proofing Mutation
      • The Answer to the Pritikin Puzzle
      • Protein Intake & IGF-1 Production
      • Higher Quality May Mean Higher Risk
      • Animalistic Plant Proteins
      • Too Much Soy May Neutralize Benefits
      • How Much Soy Is Too Much?
      • Plant-Based Bodybuilding
      (Thanks Darryl for putting together the list)

      Why not get your protein the safe and healthy way? – Eat whole plant foods.

      Good luck.

      • Mr. and Mrs. M.

        Well, that is certainly and eye opener. Thanks so much. I will look at all the above. Hope I can find some complete plant proteins I can use as I developed an allergy to quinoa. Mrs. M.

  • JenniferC

    You all should check out Hampton Creek foods. They are building a plant based egg, one formula for scrambled and one for recipes that require eggs, they also make an amazing vegan “mayonnaise”. Aside from the nutrition of eggs look at how the chickens are kept and what they are being fed, the entire industry is terrible.

    • fruitbat

      99% of them in the UK are fed partially or fully on soya grown in (what used to be) the Amazon rainforest.

  • FarmerInNH

    Hold on folks… Did anyone bother to read the conclusion of the meta analysis cited below? It reads, “Higher consumption of eggs (up to one egg per day) is not associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease or stroke.” Here’s more, “…epidemiologic studies have found weak or little association between dietary cholesterol intake and cardiovascular disease risk…Moreover, several studies have shown that egg consumption favors the formation of larger LDL and HDL particles, which might enhance protection against atherosclerosis.” Personally I would much rather read the study than listen to some quack on YouTube with an ax to grind. I eat organic vegetables, fruit, eggs (from my own chickens), grass-fed meat and dairy and NO Carbs and my cholesterol readings are excellent. There’s a lot of new research in the last 5 years debunking the junk science that came out in the 60′s and 70′s regarding cholesterol and fats.

    • Sarah G.

      Hi FarmerinNH,

      I think it is great that you actually read the study! Too often people rely on interpretation over facts.

      That being said, meta-analysis can be a rather weak form of research. It relies only on pre-existing studies, so you can form a good meta-analysis from several small and poorly designed studies. This leaves much room for agenda driven bias.

      In meta-analysis, researchers can pick and choose what to include in their analysis and label unfavorable research as “not credible” or ignore it all together. A meta-analysis of poorly designed studies can still produce bad statistics.

      So… In a way, a meta-analysis is just an interpretation with room for bias (same as a YouTube video)

      And you are eating carbs – fruits and vegetables are carbs :)

      -Sarah

    • Tommasina

      I agree with Sarah–that’s great that you checked out the study! But even the USDA is telling the egg industry that they can’t market eggs as healthy or safe. Did you watch Dr. Greger’s video on their correspondence? http://nutritionfacts.org/video/who-says-eggs-arent-healthy-or-safe/

      Also did you notice what the American Heart Association pointed out above?

      From Dr. Greger’s above blog post: “The guidelines on the AHA website at the time explained that since one
      egg has 213 and the limit for people with normal cholesterol is 300 you
      could fit an egg in if you cut down on all other animal
      products. If you have an egg for breakfast, for example, and some
      coffee, some skinless turkey breast for lunch, etc., you could end up at
      over 500 by the end of the day, nearly twice the recommended limit. So
      if you are going to eat an egg, the Heart Association instructed, we
      would need to “substitute vegetables for some of the meat, drink our
      coffee black, and watch for hidden eggs in baked goods.” Furthermore,
      the limit for folks with high cholesterol is 200mg a day, which may not
      even allow a single egg a day.”

    • gracecc5249

      What do you mean “no carbs”? What do you think fruit and veggies are?

    • fruitbat

      You just called an MD a “quack”. What are your qualifications? Not much if you think fruit and vegetables aren’t carbs. What makes you think he has an “axe to grind” as opposed to yourself, clearly an anti-carb fanatic?

      One egg per day is not particularly “high consumption”. The “research” you are referring to are a very small number of studies funded by the dairy industry and Atkins foundation.

      • Tommasina

        Please, no ad hominem attacks fruitbat.

  • Ms Right

    The egg substitute Ener-G Egg Replacer lists methionine on the ingredient label, which Dr. Gregor says is linked to cancer. So how much methionine is safe? Should we vegans avoid this egg replacer entirely?

    • gracecc5249

      Try using the Vegg for replacing of eggs. Its mostly nutritional yeast. It tastes great even plain and dipping toast in. It contains nutritional yeast flakes, kala namak (black sea salt) and beta-carotene and contains sodium alginate (made from brown seaweed).

    • fruitbat

      Yes, avoid, there is no need for it and is artificial. Ener-G can only act as a binder, and freshly ground flaxseeds (or chia seeds) can have exactly the same effect, while remaining a wholefood and providing nutrients such as omega 3 fats. Not to mention cheaper

  • Dagmar Dvorska

    Blood cholesterol, what it is? Why not calling things their valid names, such as lipoproteins? There is much more than just cholesterol molecules in blood lipids profile. How about elevated triglycerides as a risk factor of cardiovascular diseases? What does cholesterol have to do with them? How about esterifying power of excess fructose in cases of high intake of fats overall? Fatty acids I mean, not cholesterol. How about remodelling of VLDLs to sd-VLDL by fructose or oxidation of VLDLs to ox-VLDLs by high glucose levels? If egg supplies cholesterol to blood and there is high total cholesterol – do they examine what type of ‘cholesterol’ is high? Because the true cholesterol can be found in HDL as well as in LDL. Can someone answer this for me?

  • gracecc5249

    I am sorry but when you have experts flip-flopping every so often as to the safety of a food, wouldn’t you just drop the food to be on the safe side. I know I do. They do the same with a lot of foods. Coconut oil is another one. I won’t use it – they have changed on these topics so many times, for me, its enough to say “If they are not sure, I’m not using it.” I’ve seen the egg industry lie and cover up enough crap to make me worry, what’s wrong with the rest of you? I would think anyone with a brain would stay away from anything that could not be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was safe. If there was a 1% chance I could die from eating eggs, I’ll quit eating the eggs (which I already do seeing that I am a vegan). I love my life and my family and will try to stay around as long as possible and if that means not eating some foods and opting for others, I’m doing it without a problem.

  • DanielFaster

    More egg lies and the lying liars who lie about them: http://www.nbcnews.com/business/consumer/rotten-eggs-yield-6-8-million-fine-iowa-company-n120296 if the cholesterol don’t get you their little pets will