Eggs are a dietary staple in most parts of the world.
Go to America, and you’ll get fried eggs with ham, an old-fashioned American classic.
Go to the UK, and you might find eggs boiled or scrambled as part of a standard breakfast.
Or in Korea, where you’ll get eggs cracked and cooked on top of hot rice dishes to complement an already tasty and nutritious meal.
The point is, eggs have become a central component in people’s diets across the world for a few simple reasons:
- They’re cheap.
- An excellent protein source.
- Packed with healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats.
- Contain minerals like iron, and vitamins A, B, and D (Keum 2015).
However, eggs are also a major contributor to choline in the American diet.
And while choline is an essential nutrient that is required for many functions in the body, choline has also been implicated in prostate cancer development.
So the question is…are eggs good for the prostate or not? This article will discuss the link between eggs and prostate cancer risk.
Do eggs cause prostate cancer?
According to a study published in Cancer Prevention Research, eating eggs could increase your chances of being diagnosed with prostate cancer. The study followed a large group of 27,607 men over 14 years (1994-2008).
Men who consumed 2.5 or more eggs each week had an 81 percent increased risk of developing advanced prostate cancer compared to those who ate less than half an egg each week.
However, there are a few problems with this study.
So before you panic, let’s take a look at what they are…
First of all, only 199 out men out of 27,607 developed advanced prostate cancer. That’s just 0.72 percent.
A percentage that small suggests that the association could be down to chance.
Researchers also found that men who ate more eggs were also likely to exercise less, smoke, have a high Body Mass Index (BMI), or have a family history of prostate cancer.
This suggests that other factors were likely to have been involved in the increased risk.
While the prospective study controlled the above factors, there were likely other factors that were not accounted for, which silently contributed to the increased risk of prostate cancer.
Participants were required to answer questionnaires about their eating habits every four years.
Yet recall bias (the inability to accurately remember events from the past) would almost certainly play a significant role in the outcome, as it will be difficult to remember what you’ve been eating over the last 4 years.
A more recent meta-analysis of observational studies published in the British Journal of Nutrition also looked at the effects of egg intake on prostate cancer risk (Keum 2015).
10 studies were included to examine prostate cancer risk, and 4 studies were included to investigate the risk of death from prostate cancer.
The study found that higher consumption of eggs did not increase the risk of developing prostate cancer.
However, for men with prostate cancer, consuming eggs increased the risk of prostate cancer mortality. It should be noted, however, that men with high egg consumption also had higher red meat intake (Keum 2015).
Given there is a clear link between high red meat intake and an increased risk of prostate cancer, it’s possible the higher risk of death was due to red meat rather than eggs.
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What role does choline play?
Choline is an essential nutrient found in eggs that helps cells repair and rebuild every time they divide.
Eggs are the most abundant source of choline, with about 683 mg choline per 100 grams of yolk.
The problem is that choline is also found in prostate cancer cells. As such, there are fears about whether or not choline can increase your risk of developing prostate cancer.
Another factor is that dietary choline is transformed into trimethylamine (TMAO) in the gut.
Research has suggested that the trimethylamine produced from high levels of dietary choline intake “may increase inflammation, which in turn, could promote prostate cancer progression to lethal disease.”
A study looking at the relationship between choline intake and aggressive prostate cancer was published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Richman 2012).
There were 47896 men involved in the study. Their diet was assessed 6 times over 22 years.
Men who consumed the highest amount of choline had a 70% increase in developing aggressive prostate cancer compared to men with the lowest intake of choline.
However, this finding is confined to a small population in America. Studies in other countries are required to determine if choline is truly linked to prostate cancer (Richman 2012).
One of the issues with the theory that choline in eggs increases prostate cancer risk is that there are more prominent contributors to choline in the American diet, such as wheat germ (NIH).
However, no study has reported a link between wheat germ and prostate cancer. Soybeans/ soy are another food staple rich in choline…yet once again, no connection has been made to prostate cancer (NIH).
In truth, it is difficult to focus any analysis on a single component of a person’s diet.
It is more likely that other factors (diet, weight, etc.) account for the increased risk of prostate cancer.
In fact, some countries have high egg consumption in their diets than the USA but have a lower prevalence of prostate cancer diagnosis.
This suggests, in line with the British Journal of Nutrition review, that egg consumption does not increase the risk of developing prostate cancer.
In short, there does not appear to be sufficient evidence to support the claim that eggs are bad for prostate health, or that eggs increase one’s risk of prostate cancer.
Choline is an essential nutrient; therefore, it must be consumed in the diet for optimal health. Low concentrations of choline are associated with the development of fatty liver and liver damage.
Furthermore, animal studies suggest that choline intake may be beneficial to cognitive function and memory. Therefore, it is best to wait for more conclusive evidence from clinical trials, before cutting eggs out of your diet.
Reducing prostate cancer risk through diet
If you are concerned about developing cancer, then you can follow the existing dietary and lifestyle guidelines for reducing cancer risk, which includes:
- Limiting processed foods in your diet. The majority of processed foods contain additives, sugar, and salt.
These chemical additives are not food-based, and many of them are anti-microbial, which means they not only limit the growth of bacteria and other microbes, to keep the food from rotting, but they also affect the microbes that keep our gut healthy.
- Reducing red meat consumption. High intakes of red meat have been associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer. It was previously reported in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS) that red meat intake was associated with an increased risk of metastatic prostate cancer based on follow-up from 1986 to 1996.
- Avoiding cow’s milk and other high-fat dairy products. Research has shown that men who consume a lot of dairy products have an increased likelihood of developing prostate cancer than men who don’t eat calcium-heavy diets.
- Increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables in your diet, which are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. In fact, recent research suggests that a vitamin-rich plant-based diet may lower the risk of prostate cancer. Try including cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, and kale, which are rich in beta carotene.
- Research has also suggested that lycopene, a carotenoid found in certain fruits and vegetables, may help to prevent prostate cancer. Whole foods that are rich in lycopene are highly nutritious and rich in other vitamins and dietary fiber.
However, lycopene, while great when eaten as part of a healthy diet, should not be taken as a dietary supplements. Tomato intake providing about 30 mg of lycopene has been shown to reduce PSA levels in men with prostate cancer. These benefits were exerted from lycopene from whole foods rather than as an extract.
- Drinking green tea. Green tea has been shown that antioxidants also slow down prostate cancer progression and reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
- Omega 3 fatty acids, from salmon, mackerel, and trout are a good source of healthy fat. These fatty acids also help produce prostaglandin, lower high blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart attacks, and lower harmful cholesterol levels while raising good cholesterol levels.
The above examples are only some of the foods that will help you promote and maintain good prostate health.
Although some studies suggest a link between egg consumption and prostate cancer risk, it is difficult to focus any analysis on a single component of a person’s diet. Therefore, it is best to wait for more conclusive evidence.
When it comes to diet, a plant-based diet rich in fruits and vegetables has been shown to reduce prostate cancer risk. Over time, be sure to add in moderate exercise and activity for a balanced approach.
A properly maintained diet and a healthy lifestyle provide you a fighting chance at preventing prostate diseases and significantly improving your prostate health.