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How Eggs Can Impact Body Odor

I previously lampooned the egg industry PR campaign, which tried to promote eggs as a source of eyesight-saving nutrients such as lutein, by noting that a single spoonful of spinach had as much as nine eggs (Egg Industry Blind Spot). The reason we’ll only hear that egg industry claim on websites and TV shows, and never in an ad or on an egg carton, is because there are laws against false and misleading advertising that don’t allow the industry to say eggs contain lutein because there’s such an insignificant amount.

In an email I retrieved through the Freedom of Information Act (click on the above video to see it), the head of the USDA’s poultry research and promotion programs reminded the egg industry that they can’t mention lutein in an egg ad. They can’t say it helps people with macular degeneration, and can’t even talk about how good lutein is for us since “eggs have such a wee amount, and given eggs’ fat and cholesterol content this is a nonstarter for anything but PR.” So for public relations, companies can lie through your teeth, but there are laws covering truthfulness in ads.

The industry can’t say eggs are a source of omega 3s, iron, or folate either. They can’t even honestly call eggs a rich source of protein. The USDA Agriculture Marketing Service suggested that the egg industry instead boast about the choline content of eggs, one of only two nutrients that eggs are actually rich in, besides cholesterol.

So the egg industry switched gears. A priority objective of the American Egg Board became “to make choline out to be an urgent problem and eggs the solution.” They outlined how they could partner with a physician’s group and write an “advertorial.” They developed a number of them for nutrition journals. An advertorial is an advertisement parading as an objective editorial. They sent letters out to doctors arguing that “inadequate intake of choline has tremendous public health implications.” So forget about the cholesterol—the “elephant-in-the-room,” as the industry calls it—and focus on this conjured epidemic of choline deficiency.

People actually get about twice what they need and, in fact, too much choline may be the real problem. For one thing, too much choline can give breath, urine, sweat, saliva, and vaginal secretions an odor resembling rotten fish. Millions of Americans have a genetic defect that causes a fishy body odor and might benefit from a low-choline diet, since choline is converted in our gut into the fishy compound trimethylamine (TMA). Individuals oozing trimethylamine often become vegans because reducing the ingestion of dietary animal products rich in lipids decreases TMA production and the associated noxious odor. The other 99 percent of us, though, can turn the fishy choline compound into trimethylamine oxide, which is 100 times less stinky. We used to think extra choline was harmless for the 99 percent, but not anymore.

Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic found that dietary choline (after it is converted in our gut to trimethylamine and oxidized in our liver to form trimethylamine oxide) may contribute to plaque build-up in people’s arteries. This may set us up for heart disease, stroke, and death. Which foods is choline predominantly found in? Eggs, milk, liver, red meat, poultry and fish.

The good news is that this may mean a new approach to prevent or treat heart disease, the most obvious of which would be to limit dietary choline intake. But if that means decreasing egg, meat and dairy consumption, then the new approach sounds an awful lot like the old approach, adopting a plant-based diet.

Choline may be one of the reasons people following the Atkins diet are at increased risk of heart disease whereas a more plant-based diet like Ornish’s can instead reverse our number one killer. This new research adds choline to the list of dietary culprits with the potential to increase the risk of heart disease, making eggs a double whammy—the most concentrated common source of both choline and cholesterol.

I previously did a more in depth dive into the choline issue in Carnitine, Choline, Cancer and Cholesterol: The TMAO Connection.

More on eggs and cholesterol in Egg Cholesterol in the Diet and Avoiding Cholesterol Is a No Brainer.

More Freedom of Information Act juiciness in Eggs and Cholesterol: Patently False and Misleading Claims, Eggs vs. Cigarettes in Atherosclerosis, and my latest live presentation More Than an Apple a Day: Combating Common Diseases.

What else might make you smell fishy? See Bacterial Vaginosis and Diet.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my 2012-2013 live year-in-review presentation Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death .

Related:
Eggs vs. Cigarettes in Atherosclerosis
Egg Industry Caught Making False Claims
Why Are Eggs Linked to Cancer Progression?

Read more: Health, Cholesterol, Diet & Nutrition, Eating for Health, General Health, Heart & Vascular Disease, Men's Health, Natural Remedies, Obesity, Videos, Women's Health, , , , ,

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Dr. Michael Greger

A founding member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues. Currently Dr. Greger serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at The Humane Society of the United States. Hundreds of his nutrition videos are freely available at NutritionFacts.org.

108 comments

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1:45AM PDT on Jun 7, 2014

I feel like eating an egg

12:09PM PDT on Apr 12, 2014

I lost my 81 year old sister this past week. She was not vegan like me or vegetarian like my older 90 year old sister. Somehow I feel that had she adopted a plant-based diet she would still be alive today. As an ethical vegan, I am not vegan for health reasons, though I am grateful that I am healthy - use no drugs - need no doctors so far.
I am able to care for some rescued cats and maintain my home. Just today, I was out pruning my rose bushes. I had foolishly followed an internet site that said we shouldn't prune in fall. I will never follow that advice again! I am glad that I can still do for myself at 83. Thank you God for my healthy and compassionate lifestyle.

10:34AM PDT on Mar 18, 2014

I eat one or two eggs almost every day. I'm 56. So far, except for hypothyroidism and a couple of other things unrelated to diet, I'm pretty darn healthy- and I don't smell bad with or without "deodorant" even after a few of days of dry camping with no shower. So... I'm going to keep on eating eggs.

1:24AM PDT on Mar 11, 2014

Greetings Anteater A. You asked the question: "Do ants influence the body odour?" That is a good question to ask an entomologist. I imagine that since you eat ants as all anteaters do, it would depend on what the ants have been trekking through on their journey to the ant hill, so, body odour may depend on where the ants have been before an anteater eats them. Hopefully, the ants were trekking across a cinnamon tree or vanilla beans so that an anteater picks up a vanilla or cinnamon scented body odour after a hearty meal of ants or even termites. Some anteaters eat 30,000 ants in one day. Impressive. Just stay away from ants hanging around civet cats.

11:24PM PDT on Mar 10, 2014

So very true Karen R and Mrs. S. Life is made of some compromises and eating a balanced diet often helps when we eat various organic foods, including eggs if one wishes to eat them.

However, I just love this 'insightful gem' from Dr. Michael vegan Greger: "Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic found that dietary choline (after it is converted in our gut to trimethylamine and oxidized in our liver to form trimethylamine oxide) may contribute to plaque build-up in people’s arteries. This may set us up for heart disease, stroke, and death."

11:23PM PDT on Mar 10, 2014

Note the words "may contribute to" and of course the howler: "This 'may' set us up for heart disease, stroke and death." May? How fascinating. Mother may I? It 'may' snow tomorrow, there 'may' well be an earthquake swallowing me up into a deep abyss, but before that time, may I simply enjoy the benefits of organically raised non-factory farmed eggs without the Vegan Chorus forever telling me that I am facing a horrific and painful doom? Or, I could go skydiving and take my chances.

Somehow those who are the omnivore part of humankind have survived centuries if not more by eating eggs, cheese, honey, non-factory farmed meat and have survived. Had these foods been that deadly, much the the world's population would not even exist today. Like many people, I will take a pass on The Vegan Egg Temperance Union and poach one for breakfast without believing the other bizarre claim that Dr. Michael vegan Greger often throws out ~ that 'an egg a day is like smoking 25,000 cigarettes.' What is that, improv comedy at Theatre vegan?

9:28PM PDT on Mar 10, 2014

Thanks. I stopped eating eggs years ago because of the cruelty in the industry.

12:59PM PST on Mar 5, 2014

The best thing to do is eat a balanced diet with a wide variety of foods. Too much of anything can cause problems. There is no perfect food. Lighten up, eat food, and enjoy life.

1:10AM PST on Mar 5, 2014

Thank you :)

1:41PM PST on Mar 2, 2014

Thanks

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