Eggs, Choline, & Cancer

Eggs, Choline, & Cancer
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Choline may be the reason egg consumption is associated with prostate cancer progression and death.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Two million men in the U.S. are living with prostate cancer—but, that’s better than dying from prostate cancer. Catch it when it’s localized, and your five-year survival is practically guaranteed. But, once it really starts spreading, your chances drop to one in three. “Thus, identification of modifiable factors that affect the progression of prostate cancer” is something that deserves study. So, Harvard researchers took more than a thousand men with early stage prostate cancer, and followed them for a couple years to see if there was anything in their diet associated with a resurgence of the cancer, such as spread to the bone.

Compared to men who hardly ate any eggs, men who ate even less than a single egg a day had a “significant 2-fold increase [in the risk of] prostate cancer progression.” The only thing worse was poultry consumption—up to four times the risk of progression among high-risk men. They think it might be the meat carcinogens—the heterocyclic amines—that, for some reason, build up more in chicken and turkey muscle than in other meats.

But, what about the eggs? Why would less than once-a-day egg consumption double the risk of cancer progression? It may be the choline. “A plausible mechanism that may explain [the]… association between eggs and prostate cancer progression is high dietary choline.” Egg consumption is a determinant of how much choline you have in your blood, and higher blood choline has been associated with a greater risk of getting prostate cancer in the first place. So, the choline in eggs may both increase one’s risk of getting it, and then having it spread, and, also, having it kill you.

“Choline intake and the risk of lethal prostate cancer.” Choline consumption associated not just with getting cancer, and spreading cancer—but also, significantly increased risk of dying from it. Those that ate the most had “a 70% increased risk of lethal prostate cancer.” Another recent study found that “[m]en who consumed 2.5 or more eggs per week [that’s just like one egg every three days] had an 81% increased risk of lethal prostate cancer.” Now, it could just be the cholesterol in eggs that’s increasing fatal cancer risk; but, it could also be that choline.

Maybe that’s why meat, milk, and eggs have all been associated, at one time or another, with advanced prostate cancer—because of the choline. In fact, choline is so concentrated in cancer cells, if you follow choline uptake, you can track the spread of cancer through the body. But, why may dietary choline increase the risk of lethal prostate cancer? Remember, dietary choline is converted in the gut into trimethylamine. And so, the Harvard researchers speculated that the TMAO “from the high dietary choline [intake] may increase inflammation, and this may promote progression of prostate cancer to lethal disease.”

In the New England Journal of Medicine, that same Cleveland Clinic research team that did the famous study on carnitine repeated the study. But this time, instead of feeding people a steak, they fed people some hard-boiled eggs. And, just as they suspected, a similar spike in that toxic TMAO. So, it’s not just red meat. And, the link between TMAO levels in the blood, and strokes, heart attack, and death was seen even in low-risk groups, like those with low-risk cholesterol levels. So, eating eggs may increase our risk, regardless of what our cholesterol is, because of the choline.

It’s ironic that the choline content of eggs is something the egg industry actually boasts about. And, the industry is aware of the cancer data. Through the Freedom of Information Act, I was able to get my hands on an email from the executive director of the industry’s Egg Nutrition Center to an American Egg Board executive, talking about how choline may be a culprit in promoting cancer progression: “Certainly worth keeping in mind as we continue to promote choline as another good reason to consume eggs.”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to MrX via Wikimedia

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Two million men in the U.S. are living with prostate cancer—but, that’s better than dying from prostate cancer. Catch it when it’s localized, and your five-year survival is practically guaranteed. But, once it really starts spreading, your chances drop to one in three. “Thus, identification of modifiable factors that affect the progression of prostate cancer” is something that deserves study. So, Harvard researchers took more than a thousand men with early stage prostate cancer, and followed them for a couple years to see if there was anything in their diet associated with a resurgence of the cancer, such as spread to the bone.

Compared to men who hardly ate any eggs, men who ate even less than a single egg a day had a “significant 2-fold increase [in the risk of] prostate cancer progression.” The only thing worse was poultry consumption—up to four times the risk of progression among high-risk men. They think it might be the meat carcinogens—the heterocyclic amines—that, for some reason, build up more in chicken and turkey muscle than in other meats.

But, what about the eggs? Why would less than once-a-day egg consumption double the risk of cancer progression? It may be the choline. “A plausible mechanism that may explain [the]… association between eggs and prostate cancer progression is high dietary choline.” Egg consumption is a determinant of how much choline you have in your blood, and higher blood choline has been associated with a greater risk of getting prostate cancer in the first place. So, the choline in eggs may both increase one’s risk of getting it, and then having it spread, and, also, having it kill you.

“Choline intake and the risk of lethal prostate cancer.” Choline consumption associated not just with getting cancer, and spreading cancer—but also, significantly increased risk of dying from it. Those that ate the most had “a 70% increased risk of lethal prostate cancer.” Another recent study found that “[m]en who consumed 2.5 or more eggs per week [that’s just like one egg every three days] had an 81% increased risk of lethal prostate cancer.” Now, it could just be the cholesterol in eggs that’s increasing fatal cancer risk; but, it could also be that choline.

Maybe that’s why meat, milk, and eggs have all been associated, at one time or another, with advanced prostate cancer—because of the choline. In fact, choline is so concentrated in cancer cells, if you follow choline uptake, you can track the spread of cancer through the body. But, why may dietary choline increase the risk of lethal prostate cancer? Remember, dietary choline is converted in the gut into trimethylamine. And so, the Harvard researchers speculated that the TMAO “from the high dietary choline [intake] may increase inflammation, and this may promote progression of prostate cancer to lethal disease.”

In the New England Journal of Medicine, that same Cleveland Clinic research team that did the famous study on carnitine repeated the study. But this time, instead of feeding people a steak, they fed people some hard-boiled eggs. And, just as they suspected, a similar spike in that toxic TMAO. So, it’s not just red meat. And, the link between TMAO levels in the blood, and strokes, heart attack, and death was seen even in low-risk groups, like those with low-risk cholesterol levels. So, eating eggs may increase our risk, regardless of what our cholesterol is, because of the choline.

It’s ironic that the choline content of eggs is something the egg industry actually boasts about. And, the industry is aware of the cancer data. Through the Freedom of Information Act, I was able to get my hands on an email from the executive director of the industry’s Egg Nutrition Center to an American Egg Board executive, talking about how choline may be a culprit in promoting cancer progression: “Certainly worth keeping in mind as we continue to promote choline as another good reason to consume eggs.”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to MrX via Wikimedia

Doctor's Note

If you’re a long-time follower, and some of this sounds familiar, it’s because I had to fast track some of this choline information to offer background for my Dr. Oz Show appearance. I cover more about this in Carnitine, Choline, Cancer, & Cholesterol: The TMAO Connection. In Eggs & Choline: Something Fishy, I talk about what trimethylamine might do to one’s body odor.

For even more on TMAO, see: 

With regard to the prevention of prostate cancer progression, chicken and eggs may be the worst foods to eat. But, what might be the best? See Prostate Cancer Survival: The A/V Ratio.

For more on the heterocyclic amines in chicken and eggs, see:

To prevent prostate cancer in the first place, see:

What about reversing cancer progression? Learn about Dr. Ornish’s work in Cancer Reversal through Diet?, followed up by the Pritikin Foundation (see Ex Vivo Cancer Proliferation Bioassay). Flax may help, as well (see Flax Seeds vs. Prostate Cancer).

For further context, check out my associated blog post: Why the Egg-Cancer Link?

In 2019 I released a newer video on eggs and cancer: Eggs & Breast Cancer.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

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