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What kind of eggs are healthiest? Organic, cage-free, pastured, or free range?

Do most cooks prepare eggs gingerly, with great caution, care, and delicacy to preserve the antioxidants in the eggs? You can view Dr. Mercola's January 13, 2014 article, "Organic, Cage-Free, Free-Range or Pastured... Sorting Through the Confusion on Egg Labels." What color is the egg yolk? You can tell the eggs are free range or pastured by the color of the egg yolk.

Egg yolks, carotid artery plaque, and health as you age.
Photo credit: Western University. This is Dr. J. David Spence, professor of neurology, Western University. Egg yolk consumption almost as bad as smoking when it comes to atherosclerosis.

Carotid plaque goes up steeply with age, if you're predisposed to yolks clogging your arteries, do you really need those yolks? The whites are protein and don't clog arteries like the yolks might, depending on your age, but egg whites might irritate aging arteries. But if yolks don't build up in your arteries because you're still young enough or don't have the genetic risks, look for bright orange yolks instead of light yellow yolks.

Foraged hens produce eggs with bright orange yolks. You'll see eggs with orange yolks on farms in some European countries. Dull, pale, lemon yellow yolks are a sign that the eggs come from caged hens that are not allowed to forage for their natural diet. offers a helpful organic egg scorecard that rates egg manufacturers based on 22 criteria that are important for organic consumers.

Do most cooks conflate various recipes?

(The act of conflating consists of combining as two readings of a recipe or other text) into a composite whole. Be careful not to conflate gossip with real news, when it comes to various recipes on how best to cook eggs to preserve the dense nutrients and antioxidants in the eggs. Let's take a look at what free-range eggs are.

Sometimes they're called pasture-raised or pastured eggs from roaming hens outdoors in a pasture foraging for seeds, greens, worms, and bugs. Does it occur to you how much time the hens spend outdoors? What about the space outdoors? Do the hens really have access to those spaces for enough time each day? And what the hen eats, is it the organic, pasture diet? Or are the greens the hens peck at sprayed with all types of chemicals and run-off toxins?

Are you eating eggs from certified organic poultry?

Not everyone who keeps chickens can afford to have their ranch certified organic. If poultry is certified organic, it is supposed to be 100 percent guaranteed to be free of antibiotics and added hormones. You could get your eggs from a local farmer where you can see that the hens are foraging outdoors and have this type of freedom for enough time each day.

The fats from animals do contain cholesterol. But if you fry your eggs or scramble them in a skillet with fats or oils, the heat oxidizes the cholesterol in the egg. You don't want that type of fat in our arteries. You may be better off poaching your eggs in simmering or boiling broth or water just until the eggs become solid. Or use an egg poacher that you don't have to grease heavily to steam the egg from the boiling water below in the bottom of the double boiler or small egg poaching pan. Don't microwave eggs, either. It destroys a lot of the antioxidants.

How do you cook eggs to best preserve their antioxidants and nutrition?

You can use either vegetable broth you make by boiling celery, onions, and carrots in water to create a flavorful broth, or low-sodium, low-fat chicken broth. Or you can poach eggs in an egg poacher with boiling water on the bottom warming up the egg-sized double boiler on top, as if you're steaming the eggs.

Or make egg drop soup or egg flower soup by dropping eggs or even egg whites into boiling broth, soup, or water. You can eat soft-boiled eggs to preserve the antioxidants in the eggs, but be sure the yolks aren't harboring salmonella or other toxic bacteria. Check with the local farmer and with the local Department of Health or the USDA to see whether eggs from that farmer have been recalled due to bacterial contamination or other conditions.

Do you believe that eggs with the yolks full of saturated fats promote heart disease?

You can check out the abstract of a recent study, "Egg yolk consumption and carotid plaque," published in the journal Atherosclerosis, October 2012. Increasingly the potential harm from high cholesterol intake, and specifically from egg yolks, is considered insignificant. Researchers assessed total plaque area (TPA) in patients attending Canadian vascular prevention clinics to determine if the atherosclerosis burden, as a marker of arterial damage, was related to egg intake.

To provide perspective on the magnitude of the effect, researchers also analyzed the effect of smoking (pack-years). findings suggest that regular consumption of egg yolk should be avoided by persons at risk of cardiovascular disease. Researchers noted that this hypothesis should be tested in a prospective study with more detailed information about diet, and other possible confounders such as exercise and waist circumference.

Carotid total plaque area (TPA) increases linearly with age

The total plaque area (TPA) increases exponentially with smoking pack-years. And the total plaque area (TPA) increases exponentially with egg-yolk years. The effect size of egg yolks appears to be approximately 2/3 that of smoking. Probably egg yolks should be avoided by persons at risk of vascular disease, the study observes.

Other studies have shown that eating eggs won't raise your cholesterol levels. But most tests were done with two eggs rather than a dozen eggs as some people eat at a sitting when frying omelettes. It's the frying that destroys the antioxidants in the eggs. You could put one or two raw eggs in a smoothie or vegetable juice in a blender, if the eggs are organic and you know for sure those particular eggs are free from salmonella. On the other hand, regardless of how you cook eggs or eat them raw, the yolk can turn to plaque in your arteries, especially the carotid arteries in your neck and coronary arteries, if you're predisposed to any risk of developing cardiovascular disease as you age or at different ages for different people due to genetic variations.

How to cook your eggs is important

For those who can eat eggs without genetic risks, where the eggs come from are vital to know. Factory farming too often is abusive to the chicken. The terms "cage-free" or "free-range" can mean that the poultry is not confined to an individual cage. But these labels say nothing about the conditions they are raised in, which may be deplorable.

For more information on the difference between organic, cage-free. free range, and pasture-raised eggs and chickens, check out the article, "Organic, Cage-Free, Free-Range or Pastured... Sorting Through the Confusion on Egg Labels." Also see the site, "Free-range eggs."

What you don't want in your eggs are veterinary drug contamination

Look for chicken and eggs that are both certified organic and true pasture-raised. A lot of small farmers don't have the money for organic certification. If you're looking at farms to find eggs, you could research any evidence that the farmer raises chickens according to organic, free-range standards. The point is whether the chickens forage freely for their natural diet, and aren't fed antibiotics, corn and soy. Chickens that are fed GMO corn and GMO soy is not what you want to see in chicken feed.

You want to make sure the chickens aren't contaminated with all sorts of veterinary drugs. If the farm has certified organic accreditation it means the chicken is free from unnatural additives and processes. If you look at most brands of eggs in local supermarkets, they usually don't have such accreditation. You also can notice if the store manager puts at eye level the unnatural eggs and either up high or at foot level the certified organic eggs and whether the certified organic eggs are grade A or AA.

If eggs are certified organic, it means the chickens and eggs are free from antibiotics

Numerous farmers feed chickens antibiotics and other fillers to make them gain weight or even to prevent diseases. For example, chickens can be labeled as free range but still treated with antibiotics under the direction of veterinarians. The animal feed could be full of coccidiostats, which is a chemical agent put into the chicken feed. If you want to learn more on this topic, check out the e-book or website, Eat Yourself Healthy in 28 Days - Sally Joseph.

The point is testing confirmed that true free-range eggs are far more nutritious than commercially raised eggs, possibly because of the diet differences between free ranging, pastured, and commercially farmed chickens. Research published in the International Journal of Cardiology showed that, in healthy adults, eating eggs every day did not produce a negative effect on endothelial function (an aggregate measure of cardiac risk); nor did it increase cholesterol levels, notes the article, "Organic, Cage-Free, Free-Range or Pastured... Sorting Through the Confusion on Egg Labels."

That article also notes that fresh, pastured eggs with an intact cuticle don't need refrigeration as long as you're planning to eat them right away. Certain types of eggs in other countries may be unrefrigerated for a week. But don't try this at home. In the USA, eggs need to be refrigerated at 40 degrees F, where they can keep for a month. But be aware by the time the eggs reach your local food market, they may be a month old, maybe three weeks old.

Food market eggs were not just laid yesterday in most cases

If you check the address of the farm on the back of the egg carton, you'll see in many cases of eggs in local supermarkets, that the farm is in some faraway state, unless you're buying local eggs and you're familiar with the farm, and the eggs are in a natural food store that buys eggs from local farmers. You also can check out the Polyface Farm Web site to see some details on raising chickens.

The question for people with high cholesterol who are told don't eat eggs because they'll clog your arteries since you already have the genes for arteries to quickly clog once you start eating animal products, oils, or eggs (other than a spoon of flax seed meal daily), check with your health care team to see whether eggs are clogging you or not. There's always the egg whites for protein, if they don't irritate your arteries. See the sites, "Egg Yolks Almost as Bad for Arteries as Smoking: Study - US News " and "Egg Yolks, Smoking Clog Arteries Similarly, Says Study." Then decide what's best for your genes based on how your body, including your genes respond to various foods.

Yolks can stiffen your arteries: Eggs are bad for some people's arteries, particularly if you're older and have a family predisposition to plaque building up in your carotids and/or coronary arteries

The August 15, 2012 US News article "Egg Yolks Almost as Bad for Arteries as Smoking: Study" explains, that whether boiled, scrambled or sunny-side up, cholesterol-rich egg yolks can stiffen your arteries almost as much as smoking, the August 2012 study suggests. The study leader was Dr. David Spence. professor of neurology at Western University in London, Ontario, Canada, who explained in the article that, "people at risk of vascular disease should not eat egg yolks."

The article notes that cholesterol found in an egg's yellow center can even clog the carotid artery leading to the brain, upping risks for stroke, Spence pointed out. The reason, the article notes, is that carotid plaque goes up steeply with age. You can check out the abstract of the recent study, "Egg yolk consumption and carotid plaque," published in the journal Atherosclerosis, October 2012 or online in August 2012.

If you're a senior citizen, do you need yolks? Be aware of your predisposition to vascular disease as you age. Should you be vegan after a certain age? You can check out the report published online in August 2012 in the journal Atherosclerosis. See, You can check out the abstract of a recent study, "Egg yolk consumption and carotid plaque," published in the journal Atherosclerosis, October 2012.

For other studies on similar health topics, also see, "Omega 3 Fatty Acids and Cardiovascular Disease - Proceedings from the SITeCS Meeting." Or see, "Update on marine omega-3 fatty acids: Management of dyslipidemia and current omega-3 treatment options."

Egg yolk consumption almost as bad as smoking when it comes to atherosclerosis

Recently published research in August 2012, led by Dr. David Spence of Western University, Canada, shows that eating egg yolks accelerates atherosclerosis in a manner similar to smoking cigarettes. Surveying more than 1200 patients, Dr. Spence found regular consumption of egg yolks is about two-thirds as bad as smoking when it comes to increased build-up of carotid plaque, a risk factor for stroke and heart attack. The research is published online, August 2012, in the journal Atherosclerosis. You can check out the abstract of the recent study, "Egg yolk consumption and carotid plaque," published in the journal Atherosclerosis, in print, October 2012.

Atherosclerosis, also called coronary artery disease, is a disorder of the arteries where plaques, aggravated by cholesterol, form on the inner arterial wall. Plaque rupture is the usual cause of most heart attacks and many strokes. The study looked at data from 1231 men and women, with a mean age of 61.5, who were patients attending vascular prevention clinics at London Health Sciences Center's University Hospital.

Ultrasound was used to establish a measurement of total plaque area and questionnaires were filled out regarding their lifestyle and medications including pack-years of smoking (number of packs per day of cigarettes times the number of years), and the number of egg yolks consumed per week times the number of years consumed (egg yolk-years).

The researchers found carotid plaque area increased linearly with age after age 40, but increased exponentially with pack-years of smoking and egg yolk-years

In other words, compared to age, both tobacco smoking and egg yolk consumption accelerate atherosclerosis. The study also found those eating three or more yolks a week had significantly more plaque area than those who ate two or fewer yolks per week.

"The mantra 'eggs can be part of a healthy diet for healthy people' has confused the issue. It has been known for a long time that a high cholesterol intake increases the risk of cardiovascular events, and egg yolks have a very high cholesterol content. In diabetics, an egg a day increases coronary risk by two to five-fold," says Dr. Spence, a Professor of Neurology at Western's Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and the Director of its Stroke Prevention and Atherosclerosis Research Center (SPARC) at the Robarts Research Institute, according to the August 13, 2012 news release, Egg yolk consumption almost as bad as smoking when it comes to atherosclerosis.

"What we have shown is that with aging, plaque builds up gradually in the arteries of Canadians, and egg yolks make it build up faster - about two-thirds as much as smoking. In the long haul, egg yolks are not okay for most Canadians."

Dr. Spence adds the effect of egg yolk consumption over time on increasing the amount of plaque in the arteries was independent of sex, cholesterol, blood pressure, smoking, body mass index and diabetes

And while he says, according to the news release, that more research should be done to take in possible confounders such as exercise and waist circumference, he emphasizes that regular consumption of egg yolk should be avoided by persons at risk of cardiovascular disease.

So you have some doctors saying egg yolk-caused hardening of the carotid and other arteries is a myth, and other researchers saying to avoid it if your genes and family history point to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. About six percent of the population can eat almost any diet and thrive. The rest of us either have inherited the genes that predispose us to fill up and clog when eating certain types of food, or we have inherited the genes that don't fill up the arteries so fast. But be aware that as a person ages, the body changes so that plaque fills up arteries faster, if there's the risk, and the risk is in the genes and the environment.

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