Nutrients in egg yolks help prevent macular degeneration

A couple of studies were published in this month’s Journal of Nutrition (click here and here for abstracts) showing that substances found in egg yolks were concentrated in the eye and help prevent macular degeneration, one of the dreaded diseases of aging. Macular degeneration is caused by a deterioration of the retina, and is the leading cause of blindness in people over 55.

These two fat soluble nutrients–lutein and zeaxanthin–are found in egg yolks as well as in other foods but appear to be more bioavailable when consumed as eggs.

Click here for a pretty good overview of the findings of these studies.

The sad but amusing sidebar to these studies is the extreme effort these researchers made to ensure that the egg consumption that provided all the benefits wasn’t associated with–God forbid–any ‘negative’ change in cholesterol levels.

As the summary points out

Importantly, serum concentrations of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and triglycerides were not affected by the egg interventions.

So, let’s review. Macular degeneration causes enormous disability to those afflicted, that we know for sure. The notion that elevations of cholesterol cause any kind of problem whatsoever is an hypothesis, and one that gets blown up any time it’s really evaluated. Researchers find a cheap, nutritious, readily available food containing substances that prevent macular degeneration, but they’re timid about its use because it ‘might’ minimally increase blood levels of cholesterol, which have never been shown to cause problems in the first place. And have never really been shown to increase with increased cholesterol in the diet.

God help us all.

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9 thoughts on “Nutrients in egg yolks help prevent macular degeneration

  1. Dr. Mike,
    Thank you very much for posting this. I’m printing it out and sending it to my Mom. She is a 76 YO retired nurse with Macular Degeneration.
    Other than that, she is in very good health for a 76 YO woman, yet is taking Lipitor and “watching the fatty foods”. Makes me so mad…

    “God help us all” is right.

    Hi Karen–

    I hope your mother takes heed. I don’t know how much good it will do at this stage of the game, but it certainly shouldn’t hurt.

    Best–

    MRE

  2. When I changed to a low-carb diet a few years ago, within a week I noticed a change in my eye color from pale grey-blue to a much deeper turquoise blue. I assumed this change resulted from either the additional eggs or increased fat in my diet. Does this seem likely?

    Hi Ethyl–

    Nope, I’ve never heard of such a thing, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. I suppose that some of the fatty deposits around the iris cleared up showing the true color instead of seeing it through a veil of fat.

    Best–

    MRE

  3. I mentioned eating more eggs to a senior client once to enhance his overall health and well being and after ~6 months he came in telling me he could see better. I had no real idea why then, but now…

    I eat ~2-3 eggs pretty much everyday. I’m 45 and still do not need glasses (both parents wore glasses). I’m bumping it up!

    Hi Fred–

    I’ve never had patients tell me anything like this, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen.

    Cheers–

    MRE

  4. I just emailed this to my diabetic mother…though she’s had Type 1 for over 25 years, her health is perfect…she figured out stable blood sugars = less health problems long ago. But I think a few extra eggs in her diet are something to be encouraged.

    Hi Lyndsay–

    I’m with you.

    Best–

    MRE

  5. Not that you asked, but I see you’re redecorating. I like the blood cells better than the skulls.

    Just in case you were looking for opinions.

    M

    Hi Michelle–

    Thanks for your input.  I’ve been having trouble deciding what to put along the top of the blog.  The red blood cells look medical-y, but my huge interest is in the diet of Paleolithic man.  I liked the line up of the skulls of various stages of human development and I liked the cave painting.  So, I decided to rotate them.  If you get on and find the skulls, simply hit ‘refresh’ and soon enough you’ll be presented with the blood cells.

    Best–

    MRE 

     

  6. Didn’t I read recently that the incidence of macular degeneration had increased over the past few years??

    Cindy

    Hi Cindy–

    The incidence of macular degeneration has exploded. No one knows if it because there are more older people around today than in other times in the past of if there is another reason. My guess would be a combination of an older population combined with the fear of fat in this population leading to a reduced intake of all kinds of fat soluble nutrients.

    Best–

    MRE

  7. Dr. Mike,
    what is your opinion of the nutritional value of raw verses cooked eggs? how do you eat them? how were the eggs in this study eaten? thanks

    Hi Susan–

    In my opinion there are probably a few available nutrients lost when raw eggs are cooked.  This loss is offset, however, by the loss of bacteria that the eggs can contain, eliminating the chance for infection.  On the whole, I think it’s a worthwhile trade off.  If you want to use raw eggs in a recipe, say, for eggnog, try to find pasteurized raw eggs and use them.

    Best–

    MRE 

  8. Hi there,

    I was just thinking about the days before I went low carb. At my last eye doctor appt before low carb the doctor said I was borderline for astigmatism (sorry for the spelling) but I kept my old glasses because I didn’t want to pay for a new pair and I mostly wear contacts anyways. I didn’t say anything to the doctor but I felt my eyesight at night was getting a little blurrier but that could have been the astigmatism. Then I went on low carb and started the day out with 3 to 4 eggs for breakfast everyday. Two years later I saw a new eye doctor she said I my old glasses were too strong. Two more years pass by I go back to former the doctor, he says I don’t have astigmatism and my eyesight slightly improved in my right eye (the worser one of the two). Now I realize this could be all be borderline diagnosis by all doctors but I really do think what little astigmatism I had improved.

    Interesting.  I’ve heard similar reports from my own patients.  I don’t really know what the mechanism is; I suspect it has to do with a decrease in swelling of the lens with the carb reduction, but I don’t for sure.

    I’m glad you’ve had such success.

    Cheers–

    MRE