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Study: Eating Eggs Daily Linked to Better Bone Health – Health.com

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Your morning egg scramble could be doing more than simply fueling you until lunch—it might also be strengthening your skeleton.

A new study found whole egg consumption is related to greater bone mineral density in the U.S. population. The research was published in January in Food and Function.

Calcium-rich foods such as leafy greens and dairy products have long held top billing as the healthiest choices for bones, but they’re far from the only foods that support a solid skeleton. This new research could cement eggs as yet another dietary option to reduce the risk of osteoporosis (weak bones).

“This is not the first study that linked egg consumption with bone health,” study author Weihong Chen, MD, chief of the Department of Occupational and Environmental Health at Huazhong University of Science and Technology, told Health.

A preprint scoping review published in October called for more evidence on the subject but said eggs may be a way to boost bone density and lower fracture risk among older people. Additional research, such as a 2021 study in the Journal of Midlife Health, has also identified a relationship between eating whole eggs and having sturdier bones, Chen pointed out.

However, Chen and her colleagues’ study may have more impact than previous ones since, to her knowledge, it involved more participants.

Here’s what experts had to say about the new study, as well as how eggs may be able to help you protect against osteoporosis.

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To learn more about how a diet rich in eggs might affect people’s bone health, Chen and her colleagues designed a study including over 19,000 people who had participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. This longitudinal study has been in existence since the early 1960s, but this study used data collected from 2005–2010, 2013–2014, and 2017–2018.

Researchers had access to these participants’ bone mineral density (BMD), as well as their survey results regarding egg consumption. The team’s analysis revealed participants who consumed at least 3.53 ounces of whole eggs daily—about two large eggs—had significantly elevated BMD levels in their femurs and spines.

Bone mineral density measures calcium and other minerals in the bones. Low BMD is a sign of osteoporosis—when bones are less dense, they’re more likely to break.

Older people are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis since, as we age, we lose more bone than we build. In particular, older women may be more likely to get the condition because estrogen levels (which help build and maintain healthy bones) drop after menopause.

But age and gender aren’t the only factors playing a role in a person’s osteoporosis risk. Insufficient nutrition, low levels of physical activity, smoking, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, and long-term use of certain drugs such as corticosteroids can all put a person at risk of weak, brittle bones.

Eggs are well-known for being a low-calorie breakfast option, as well as for containing a moderate amount of protein (about 6 grams per large chicken egg). However, people might not turn to eggs as a way to protect their bone health—after all, eggs are not rich in calcium, containing just 24 milligrams, or about 2% of adults’ recommended daily intake.

But according to the new Food and Function study, eggs appear to activate a group of bodily enzymes called alkaline phosphatase, which can strengthen bones.

“Alkaline phosphatase (ALP) is a group of enzymes mainly existing in the liver, bones, kidneys, etc., which is a biomarker of bone metabolism and is not a part of the egg,” Chen explained. “The consumption of whole eggs could affect the production of ALP, which significantly affects the bone mineral density of both femur and lumbar spine.”

The researchers found that ALP’s role accounted for about 72% of eggs’ effect on bone density in the femur and 83% in the lumbar spine.

“[This suggests] that a large part of the benefits of egg consumption on these bone areas is because of how they impact ALP levels,” said Chen.

Besides this enzymatic effect, eggs are also rich in several nutrients that support healthy bones.

“Eggs contain vitamin D, which helps your body absorb calcium, a mineral that is essential for strong bones,” Kathryn Piper, RDN, registered dietician nutritionist and founder of The Age-Defying Dietitian, told Health. “Additionally, eggs are packed with protein, zinc, and other minerals that contribute to overall bone health.” 

In fact, the protein in eggs is another possible reason for their bone-building abilities.

“Eggs are an excellent source of protein, and previous studies have indicated the indispensable role of protein in the calcium and phosphorus metabolism, vitamin transport, and bone remodeling balance,” said Chen.

Egg protein even contains amino acid sequences called bioactive peptides that may have extra benefits for bones, she noted.

For years, discussion around the healthfulness of eggs has been fraught with concerns about their leading to high cholesterol or cardiovascular disease. However, research suggests eggs can be part of a heart-healthy diet, and the American Heart Association even encourages Americans to eat eggs daily as a source of high-quality protein.

“Studies suggest that moderate egg consumption (around one to two whole eggs daily) doesn’t significantly impact cholesterol levels in healthy individuals,” Piper added.

People with pre-existing high cholesterol should discuss their egg intake with their doctor, said Piper, but in general, eating about two eggs daily seems to boost both heart and bone health.

When incorporating eggs into a healthy diet, just remember that the way you cook them matters.

“Boil, poach, or lightly scramble eggs with minimal oil,” Piper suggested. “These cooking methods maximize the nutritional benefits of eggs without adding unhealthy fats.”

Additionally, what you put with eggs can add to or detract from the healthfulness of a meal.

“For a more balanced approach, combine eggs with nutrient-rich foods like vegetables, whole grains, and fruits,” she added. “Think veggie-filled omelets, avocado toast, salads, or whole-wheat sandwiches featuring eggs.”

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