Don’t Get Cracking: How Egg Lobbies Skew Research


Uncracking the Truth, acrylic on canvas, 2020. #worldeggfreeday

Don’t Get Cracking: How Egg Lobbies Skew Research

Vegan Society of Canada News
September 23rd 2020

As a prelude to World Egg-Free Day on October 9th, 2020, here is the latest research on the health concerns of egg consumption.

Cancer

There is various research showing the increased risk of cancer from egg consumption. Recent studies found that the molecule called trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), which is produced by the consumption of animal products like red meat and eggs, correlates with increased cancer risks. And eggs, with their high choline content, have been shown to increase TMAO levels

More particularly, research conducted in 2014 found that those consuming more than three eggs per week had a 25% higher risk of developing gastrointestinal cancer.

Another study in 2015 found, in their cohort, a 4% increased risk in breast cancer, 9% in ovarian cancer, and 49% in fatal prostate cancer from consuming five eggs per week.

Unfortunately, the increased risk for cancer starts at small amounts of egg consumption: A 2011 research showed that consuming 2.5 eggs or more per week resulted in an 81% increase of lethal prostate cancer, compared with eating less than 0.5 eggs per week.

Diabetes

A review of 14 studies published in 2013 concluded that those who consumed the most eggs increase their risk of diabetes by 68%.

Heart Disease

It has long been the scientific consensus that saturated fat and cholesterol is linked with heart disease, and foods high in those substances, like eggs, contribute to an increased risk in heart disease.

We need to address the fact that, with regards to the health impact of egg consumption, the scientific research published in the last decades has seen an increased number of conflicting opinions, so much so that it has eroded the scientific consensus and an argument could be made that eggs, for non diabetics, have a neutral impact on health.

As we have discussed, many studies do not include people who self-identify as a control group which, in the case of dairy, can overlook the detrimental effect of consumption at low amounts.

When we try to evaluate the impact of various factors, it is helpful to have a reference group which does not have this factor at all. For example, if we try to evaluate the impact of smoking and our reference group is made up of people who smoke every day, depending on the shape of the hazard ratio curve, we might end up on a flat part of the curve and report that we found no relation between smoking and cancer.

Similar confusion arises in egg research, with regards to dietary cholesterol not raising blood cholesterol, when study participants are included who already have a diet high in animal products, and therefore rich in dietary cholesterol. It’s clear that someone who already has a diet high in dietary cholesterol, including them in a study varying egg intake will show little effect on blood cholesterol. Those people are already at a higher risk for heart disease and the variation of egg intake will have minimal impact on their risk. Where is all this confusion coming from?

We are committed to using the best science available. Not surprisingly, whenever there is a stark conflict in research, a good place to start our investigation is to follow the money. Therefore, we should start by discussing the enormous influence of the animal agriculture lobby on research. As we discussed, just in Canada, animal agriculture receives billions of dollars in subsidies, is the largest lobby organization in Canada and spends that money to advance their interest. One of those interests is to portray their products as desirable and healthy. To that end, they fund various research to manipulate the scientific discourse, and in the example of the egg lobby, to show that cholesterol is not really a problem.

Unfortunately, these attacks on science are difficult to uncover. Most news organizations today are not much more than infotainment and, without investigating, will simply repeat claims of the animal agriculture industry. Most often, they even fail to provide a balanced view of the arguments.

Since 2002, it’s been proven that eggs raise total and LDL cholesterol. However, due to the egg lobby funding, we might be inclined to believe that this is not the case. Therefore, we will start by covering an analytic review which dug deeper into the funding of the egg lobby into cholesterol research over the last decades and the effect on the narrative in science. One big problem is that the animal agriculture lobby is clever; they avoid paying for some research where a potential conflict of interest would have to be disclosed. Instead they have other forms of financial relationships with academia like employment, consultancies, or prior funding for previous work or research, which would not be included in standard research disclosure statements.

In their review, they identified 211 studies which met the inclusion criteria from 1950-2019, and what they found should be of concern to everyone.

They found that 0% of the research on cholesterol was funded by the animal agriculture lobby in the 1950s and 1960s, but that rate increased to a staggering 60% in the 2010-2019 timeframe. Please note also that the determination of what is “industry funded” was very conservative and studies classified as “not industry funded” included researchers who received prior funding from the animal agriculture industry but not for the current research. It is impossible to tell what the results would have been if those researchers had been included, but it certainly would have been more than 60%, which is already much too high.

Figure 1: Percentage of research into the health impact of cholesterol considered funded by the animal agriculture industry by decade.

Now what does all of this money get you? In non-industry-funded research, 93% of them found that egg consumption increases cholesterol level, whereas the industry-funded research indicated 86%. More importantly, in the industry-funded research, while the result showed an increase in cholesterol levels, their conclusion often reported eggs had no effect at all. In industry-funded research, 49% of conclusions were discordant with their findings, whereas it was only 13% for non-industry-funded research.

An example of this discordance is in a 2014 study in the Netherlands:

A 1-year trial testing a beverage containing 1.5 egg yolks daily found that mean LDL cholesterol concentration increased by 9.3 mg/dL (0.24 mmol/L), compared with a rise of 3.5 mg/dL (0.09 mmol/L) in a control group consuming an egg-free beverage; the result did not reach statistical significance. Rather than concluding that the difference in the increases in LDL cholesterol did not reach statistical significance, the investigators concluded that changes in LDL cholesterol ‘were not different between the 2 groups.’

Even more dangerous is the impact to broadly influence judgements of funded scientists and funded institutions. To that end, 2007 research on the effect of industry funding on health research found that in the case of non-funded-industry research, unfavorable results were reported in 37% of studies; in the case of research funded by the animal agriculture industry, unfavorable results were reported 0% of the time.

The Heart Foundation of Australia stated:

Many of the studies investigating eggs are funded or part funded by the egg industry. Industry funding can skew the evidence-base available from the published literature not only by invariably reporting results favourable to the sponsors interests but also by the sheer amount of studies undertaken, giving the appearance of a stronger evidence base. Of the 13 studies investigated, 4 had some funding by the egg industry. Of note are the 3 studies suggesting very high egg consumption (up to 14 per week) does not impact upon CVD in diabetics which were all funded in some way by industry.

While acknowledging the toxic impact of animal agriculture on science, they did not consider this in their conclusion and reported that, for the general population, eggs have a neutral relationship with heart health. However, they fail to also acknowledge the toxic influence of the animal agriculture lobby on so-called health organizations by being major financial contributors to their organization, sometimes with devastating unethical consequences, as we have shown in the case of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and Osteoporosis Canada.

However, this is by no mean limited to the animal agriculture industry. The influence of for-profit corporations on science is something that is well known and has been discussed for decades, but regrettably not much has been done to fix any of the problems we all know exists.

We are committed to using the best science available. However, even for us, the animal agriculture industry and their corruption of science is making it increasingly difficult to discern reality from fiction. Nevertheless, we will continue to do our best to look deeper into issues and present things as they are.

If one day the scientific consensus changes to “animal products cure cancer” we will report it. Until then, we will continue to present the most accurate picture we can.

It does not surprise us that an industry that is built on killing for profit would find no moral issues with lying. However, it should serve as a reminder that we have to be much more thorough and look beneath the surface when studying health research. We call upon mainstream media to also do their work in providing a balanced picture to the public, and for society at large to finally implement measures to remove the negative impact of for-profit corporations on science.

We know of no other efficient means for individuals to fight our climate emergency, loss of nature, global acidification, eutrophication, fresh water shortage, prevent pandemics, antibiotic resistance, health problems, save countless lives and much much more without the need to wait for government, corporations or technological innovation. Go vegan today! Contact us for help in your change of lifestyle and to link up with one of the many local communities in your area.