January 19, 2011

How a chicken can save
your eyesight

Macular degeneration is one of the most common causes of blindness. Once you have it, it's very hard to cure. So it's vital you protect your eyes. And a new study says there's a great tasting way to protect the pigment in your eyes — and your eyesight.

Colored pigment in your macula is essential for vision and macula cell health. Lack of pigment can lead to cellular damage and ultimately macular degeneration. In a recent study, researchers assigned adults with low macula pigment to eat either two or four egg yolks daily for five weeks. After avoiding eggs for another five weeks, they ate foods containing four egg yolks per day for another five weeks.

The results of the 15-week study were most encouraging. Those with low pigment density showed a 31% increase in pigment with just two egg yolks. Those consuming four yolks per day had further increases up to 50%. Then the researchers measure the very important eye health enhancing flavonoids in their serum. Those consuming two yolks per day had increases in the important nutrients lutein and zeaxanthin of 16% and 36% respectively. That increased to 24% and 82% increases for those consuming four egg yolks.

What about cholesterol? Don't eggs raise your cholesterol levels? I've told you in the past that eggs don't raise LDL cholesterol levels. And this study confirmed that. These researchers found NO increase in serum LDL (bad) cholesterol. However, HDL (good) cholesterol increased 5%. Total serum cholesterol did increase. However, I'd expect that in this group, since most were taking statins. Statins would poison their livers' natural production of cholesterol. So, the increase would reflect absorption from the eggs offsetting the damaging effects of the statins. The point here is that eggs actually improve the cholesterol sub fraction ratios.

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Why are eggs so good for your eyes? It's the deep orange/yellow color of eggs. As in fruits and veggies, the deep color indicates its richness in eye and health-preserving nutrients. The color of egg yolks is far richer from eggs of range-fed chickens than factory farms. Why? The natural compounds chickens eat in range insects and seed is what the animals really need over the manmade feed designed for production, not health.

I consider eggs a very healthy food. Eggs are the standard for quality protein. They're loaded with lecithin, which protects you from unwanted effects of cholesterol. The problem with eggs is only the source, and how you cook them. Again, seek organic free-range eggs. Confirm their quality with visual inspection of the yolk color. The darker/richer orange/yellow the better.

When you cook eggs, don't overheat the yolks. Heating in air will oxidize and damage the lipids/cholesterol. It's far better to soft boil, poach, very soft scramble, or even eat them raw. In my latter days of eating eggs, I usually ate one to two raw eggs a day poured into my homemade salad dressings.

It's true that contaminated eggs carry a risk of salmonella or other infection. I accepted that risk, and if you decide to eat them raw, as other animals do, please know the risk yourself. If you get the eggs fresh from the farm, they're unlikely to have any contamination. The egg white protects the yolk from contamination. There could be contamination on the egg shell, so wash them thoroughly before cracking (boiling the eggs will kill these contaminants — another reason to boil them).

Eggs are a healthy food. Please don't be afraid to eat them regularly with the above caveats.

Ref: Am J Clin Nutr, 2009; 90(5).

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