Reading Time: 5 minutes

Are eggs good for weight loss?

A recent egg-industry funded study in Australia found that overweight people, who ate two eggs at breakfast, ate less at lunch compared with those who ate a low-protein, sugary breakfast.

No surprises there, Sherlock. But are eggs good for weight loss?

The study implied that an eggy breakfast could help people lose weight. This is by making them feel fuller after breakfast so they ate a smaller lunch. They didn’t measure what participants ate later on in the day though.

After a smaller lunch, they may have gone on to eat a larger evening meal. Or, they may have snacked in the afternoon, for example. Also, they didn’t investigate what the health effects of eating two eggs every day would be over time. 

Eat eggs, lose weight?

In this study, 50 overweight or obese people were given two eggs for breakfast on one day. They had cereal with juice on another day a week later (or vice versa). The amount of pasta and tomato sauce they ate at lunchtime was then measured.

Results showed that, taken together, participants ate an average of 160 calories less after the egg breakfast. But, and it’s a big but, was the cereal breakfast a fair comparison? And are eggs for breakfast (or anytime) a good idea? 

In crossover studies like this, the best approach is to test a treatment (food, drink etc) by comparing it with the most similar thing available. For example: coffee versus decaffeinated coffee, olive oil versus coconut oil, or wholemeal bread versus white bread.

Weight loss

This study compared eggs and toast with sugary cereal and orange juice: 

  • 2 eggs with 2 slices of bread/toast and 10 g margarine. (1800 kJ, 25 g protein, 23.5 g fat, 28 g carbohydrate, 7 g fiber) 430 calories).
  • bran containing cereal with sugar, milk and orange juice. (1788 kJ, 11 g protein, 5 g fat, 73 g carbohydrate, 11 g fiber) 427 calories).
A pile of eggs
The study suggested eating eggs can help you lose weight. But is there more to the study than meets the eye? Credit: Adobe. Do not use without permission

Carbs and fiber

The cereal-based breakfast had more than double the carbs but only four more grams of fiber than the egg breakfast. This henceforth suggests that a significant number of the calories came from sugar.

It’s unclear why it also had orange juice with it. At the same time, the egg breakfast had nothing to drink. Were they therefore just trying to make up calories? Unless freshly squeezed, orange juice tends to be little more than just sweetened water.

Simple sugars like these are the wrong sort of carbs we need for a healthy, filling breakfast. Most health bodies recommend high-fibre complex carbs at breakfast – the type found in wholemeal bread, oats and other cereals.

The NHS 12-week weight loss plan says: “Adding some fiber to your breakfast can help you stay feeling full until lunch and reduce the urge for a midmorning snack.” 

Protein and fat

The amount of protein and fat in both meals is very different too. A more appropriate comparison would have been scrambled tofu on toast or a small bowl of good quality muesli (with nuts and seeds), followed by one slice of wholemeal toast with nut butter.

These both provide around the same amount of energy (calories) as the egg breakfast but represent a healthier option that could help towards weight loss. Vegan diets are generally associated with a lower BMI as well as lower levels of cholesterol, blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. 

Overweight and obese

Common sense dictates that it’s not a good idea to recommend eating eggs to overweight and obese people, or anyone for that matter. Eggs contain more cholesterol than practically any other food – the only other ‘food’ on Public Health England’s nutrient database containing significantly higher levels is boiled lambs’ brains.

While the link between cholesterol in food directly translating to cholesterol in our arteries has been questioned, many scientists think it is problematic to dismiss the link with one saying: “Recent recommendations that limits to dietary cholesterol be dropped were probably heavily influenced by propaganda from the egg industry”. 

Cholesterol

A large body of evidence links eating eggs to heart disease, showing that the more you eat, the higher your risk.

A study in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology warns a single large egg yolk contains around 275 milligrams of cholesterol. This exceeds the maximum recommended daily amount of 200 milligrams for people at risk of cardiovascular disease (diseases of the heart and blood vessels).

They conclude that the widespread perception among the public and health care professionals that dietary cholesterol is harmless, is misplaced. 

Cardiovascular disease

In 2019, a study following almost 30,000 people for over 17 years found that a higher consumption of eggs (and therefore dietary cholesterol) was linked to as higher risk of cardiovascular disease and death in a dose-response manner – the more you eat, the worse the effect. They then suggested that their findings should be considered in future updates of dietary guidelines.  

High levels of daily egg consumption are also linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. A study of 57,000 adults in the US, found that those who ate eggs for breakfast every day were 58-77 per cent more likely to develop diabetes than those who did not eat eggs.

Choline

Eggs are the richest food source of the essential nutrient choline. Too much, however, can be damaging as a by-product of choline (TMAO) is associated with the build-up of arterial plaques, promoting heart disease.

The higher the levels of TMAO, the higher the risk of stroke and heart attack. Research shows that eating two hard-boiled eggs leads to a spike in TMAO levels.

Vegans have lower levels of TMAO, which may partly explain why they have much lower rates of heart disease. High intakes of choline from eggs is not desirable for other reasons too. One study found that out of nearly 50,000 men, those with the highest choline intake had a 70 per cent increased risk of lethal prostate cancer

JUST egg plant-based egg alternative
JUST Egg is a plant-based alternative to eggs Credit: JUST

Salmonella

Eggs also carry the risk of Salmonella food poisoning – despite vaccination of chickens, eggs still pose a serious risk. In October 2020, the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) issued a warning. This was after it discovered a batch of British Lion stamped eggs that might be contaminated with Salmonella

Add to that, the future pandemic risk posed by factory farming. At this point, many scientists think the next pandemic will be caused by an avian influenza virus emerging from a factory farm (containing pigs or chickens). 

Are eggs good for weight loss?

The egg industry has spent millions trying to convince the public, doctors and policy makers that eggs are a healthy food. But are eggs healthy? They are not and there is no need for eggs in the diet.

You can replace them with a wide variety of healthier plant-based foods. For example, JUST Egg or Follow Your Heart Eggs. You can then still make delicious cakes, pancakes, scrambled tofu, vegan omelettes and even egg-free meringues. All this whilst protecting your health and lowering the risk of many diseases.  

Recommending that overweight and obese people increase their egg consumption is like telling asthmatics to have another cigarette.

Viva!’s Vegan Egg Replacer chart colourfully displays all the methods to achieve a crackin’ substitute wherever eggs are called for. And it’s tried and tested by Viva!’s Vegan Recipe Club

Dr. Justine Butler of Viva!

Dr. Butler graduated from Bristol University with a PhD in molecular biology and a BSc First Class (hons) in Biochemistry from UWE before joining Viva! in 2005. She currently researches, writes and campaigns for Viva!Health.