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Why the Egg-Cancer Link?

Two million men in the U.S. are living with prostate cancer — but that’s better than dying from prostate cancer. Catch it when it’s localized and the 5-year survival is practically guaranteed, but once it really starts spreading, chances drop to 1 in 3. “Thus, identification of modifiable factors that affect the progression of prostate cancer is something that deserves study,” noted Dr. Erin Richard and colleagues at Harvard. So, they took more than a thousand men with early stage prostate cancer and followed them for a couple years to see if there was anything in their diet associated with a resurgence of the cancer, such as spreading to the bone.

Compared to men who hardly ate any eggs, men who ate even less than a single egg a day had a significant 2-fold increased risk of prostate cancer progression. The only thing worse was poultry consumption, with up to 4 times the risk of progression among high-risk men. They think it might be the cooked meat carcinogens that for some reason build up more in chicken and turkey muscle than in other meats. For more on so-called heterocyclic amines, see my videos: Heterocyclic Amines in Eggs, Cheese, and Creatine?, Estrogenic Cooked Meat Carcinogens, and PhIP: The Three Strikes Breast Carcinogen.

But what about the eggs? Why would less than once-a-day egg consumption double the risk of cancer progression? “A plausible mechanism that may explain the association between eggs and prostate cancer progression is high dietary choline,” the researchers suggested.  Egg consumption is a determinant of how much choline you have in your blood, and higher blood choline has been associated with a greater risk of getting prostate cancer in the first place. So the choline in eggs may both increase one’s risk of getting it and having it spread.

Studies have associated choline consumption not just with getting cancer and spreading cancer, but also with significantly increased risk of dying from it. Those who ate the most had a 70% increased risk of lethal prostate cancer. Another recent study found that men who consumed 2 and a half or more eggs per week — that’s just like one egg every three days — had an 81 percent increased risk of lethal prostate cancer.

Maybe that’s why meat, milk, and eggs have all been associated with advanced prostate cancer—because of the choline. Choline is so concentrated in cancer cells that doctors can follow choline uptake to track the spread of cancer throughout the body. But why may dietary choline increase the risk of lethal prostate cancer? Dietary choline is converted in the gut to trimethylamine (see my video Carnitine, Choline, Cancer and Cholesterol: The TMAO Connection), so the Harvard researchers speculated that the TMAO from the high dietary choline intake may increase inflammation, which may promote progression of prostate cancer to a lethal disease.

In the New England Journal of Medicine the same Cleveland Clinic research team that did the famous study on carnitine repeated the study, but instead of feeding people a steak, they fed people some hard-boiled eggs. Just as they suspected, a similar spike in that toxic TMAO. So it’s not just red meat. And the link between TMAO levels in the blood and strokes, heart attacks, and death was seen even in low-risk groups like those with low-risk cholesterol levels. Thus, because of the choline, eating eggs may increase our risk regardless of what our cholesterol is.

It’s ironic that the choline content of eggs is something the egg industry actually boasts about. And the industry is aware of the cancer data. Through the Freedom of Information Act I was able to get my hands on an email (which you can view in the above video) from the executive director of the industry’s Egg Nutrition Center to an American Egg Board executive talking about how choline may be a culprit in promoting cancer progression. “Certainly worth keeping in mind,” he said, “as we continue to promote choline as another good reason to consume eggs.”

In one of my previous videos, Eggs and Choline: Something Fishy, I talked about what trimethylamine might do to one’s body odor.

With regard to the prevention of prostate cancer progression, chicken and eggs may be the worst foods to eat, but what might be the best? See my recent video Prostate Cancer Survival: The A/V Ratio.

To prevent prostate cancer in the first place, see videos such as:

What about reversing cancer progression? See Dr. Ornish’s work Cancer Reversal Through Diet?, followed up by the Pritikin Foundation: Ex Vivo Cancer Proliferation Bioassay. Flax may help as well (Flaxseed vs. Prostate Cancer).

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death and More Than an Apple a Day.

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

Read more: Health, Cancer, Cholesterol, Diet & Nutrition, Eating for Health, Fitness, General Health, Heart & Vascular Disease, Men's Health, 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.

110 comments

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6:55AM PDT on May 25, 2014

GG G, who was previously Rim R, we are true omnivores, meaning that we eat many different foods from many different sources, including meat. Some animals are carnivores or obligate carnivores eating only meat, some are omnivores and some are herbivores. Most humans do not only eat meat, hence we can be omnivores. The Inuit have a diet of mainly meat, but for the most part, most humans can be either omnivore, vegetarian, or vegan with variations thrown in.

Since vegans are three percent of the global population, it is hardly a significant number for you to be lecturing to the rest of the planet about what the rest of us eat.

GG G, if you wish to use veganSpeak and call meat a corpse, go right ahead. We still call it meat and not many of us eat living animals anymore than people eat potatoes still nestling inside the soil, most of us pull them out of the garden and prepare the food after the fact.

6:55AM PDT on May 25, 2014

We drink milk, we don't label milk 'lactate secretions,' except those using veganSpeak, nor do we have a 'lactate secretions milkshake'. The chickens provide eggs, some vegans can can call it 'stealing,' but unfertilized eggs don't hatch and the chickens would not be alive if they were not domesticated for either meat or eggs. No one has to eat factory farmed eggs, there are places to find eggs away from that source.

Enjoy the continued use of the word 'period,' but it will hardly deter anyone from eating eggs. Perhaps we will just eat egg salad sandwiches during a hockey game as they change periods or even go into overtime.

6:15AM PDT on May 25, 2014

GG G pontificates that "the future is vegan." I don't think so with your lofty three percent, perhaps in 500 years you might get it up to 20 percent. Veganism is simply a choice that some make, it is no better than vegetarianism, being omnivore and a whole myriad of choices when it comes to diet/lifestyle.

You can call honey bee vomit all you want, No one could care less about 'bee regurgitation, it still tastes marvellous. The fascination with bodily functions and the gross out factor of some militant vegans is truly amazing. Honey is wonderful, no matter how it is produced. So are mushrooms.

6:14AM PDT on May 25, 2014

GG G, spare me the 'educate yourself' sanctimony of the militant vegan. I have spent years researching, I need no lessons from the likes of you. I have vegan and vegetarian friends who are comfortable with their choices and do not feel the need to belittle, berate and finger wag those who are different. The militant vegan goes through life angry at the world. Too bad, but life is too short to go around living under a thundercloud despising those who do not fall into lockstep with your dogma. If you want to despise the rest of us for not accepting your version of 'truth,' feel free. The world is a complex place, you will never get an all-vegan world anymore than you will get an all omnivore world or an all-vegetarian world. Trying to fit all of us into the same cookie cutter 'only one truth' world is pure fundamentalism.

As for the bees and replacing with syrup, ethical beekeepers do not do that, but all you want to hear is the factory farm version of any industry. It is impossible for you to accept that not everything is nefarious and that many people opt out of mass production, be it for honey, meat, eggs, diary. For you, it is all black and white and there are no alternatives. The world does not work in black and white only.

6:14AM PDT on May 25, 2014

Militant vegans huff and puff, telling us that the words vegan propaganda is getting old. No, it is not. Spare me the cancer karma nonsense, there are many people who know what a balanced diet means.

Cancer can be genetic, there are also tons of chemicals in foods that are not animal based because over the past 40 years the food supply has become highly refined, large corporations making a bundle by replacing flour with white flour containing no nutrition. Plenty of veggies are sold soaked in pesticides. Monsanto is making the rounds.

6:14AM PDT on May 25, 2014

I know people that died from cancer who spent their lives as vegetarians and never ate meat and people that have lived to a ripe age and they ate some meat. If one eats too much meat, one can have health problems, that is why there is something called a balanced diet. It is called moderation. If one eats too much raw bok choy, you can end up in the ER.

Had meat and all animal products been so filled with disease causing agents, then humankind would have died off long ago. Factory farming does nothing useful, but plenty of people can get meat, eggs, etc., from non-factory farmed sources just as people are resisting what Monsanto does with fruits, veggies, legumes, etc.

6:14AM PDT on May 25, 2014

GG G, as for people eating unfertilized eggs (waiting to be 'given life') that sounds like a religious fundamentalist. Not every egg, be it from a hen or human is going to be fertilized.

You don't want to eat animal products, that is wonderful. But, attempting to label the eating of meat, eggs, cheese and other foods as abnormal is the line of a fundamentalist. Humans have been eating that kind of food for ages and there is nothing that you can do to reverse that as people will always eat these foods. Your attempt to stigmatize it shows your desperation, the inability to accept those different from yourselves. The militant vegan thrives on attempting to stigmatize something that is perfectly normal. You want to rewrite human history in your own image but it will not work. When my friends get together, we don't admonish and flagellate each other for what we eat. We simply get along and enjoy our food. A lot of animal welfare people happen to eat animal products. Vegans are not the only ones that care about animals. Humans do and have eaten animal products and you cannot erase that fact from history or try to make it out to be anything other than normal.

6:13AM PDT on May 25, 2014

By the way, GG G, humans are part of the animal kingdom, scientifically we are classified as animals, we are mammals. It is truly fascinating how militant vegans (except for the few that try and force a vegan diet on their cats and dogs, rofl)... accept how some animals can eat meat but want to put humans on some lofty pedestal and divorce us from the fact that we are part of the animal kingdom. This includes for much of the world, eating animal products. If you don't wish to, no one is forcing cheese, eggs etc. onto your plate. Eat what you want, but get over yourself, GG G with your song and dance that humans are not part of the animal kingdom and that somehow that by eating what many of us do, we are somehow being 'immoral.'

There is nothing wrong with fighting factory farming and corporatism, however, the idea that no one shall eat animal products simply because you say so, is not going to happen
anymore than the nonsense that people eating eggs, meat, dairy, etc., will be regarded as so-called 'monsters' and be 'reviled' by future generations. Only in your doctrinaire, fundamentalist and extremist dreams.

6:13AM PDT on May 25, 2014

Yes, GG G, the militant vegan, clenching those fists and telling the rest of us to 'fruit' off. There are even some who talk about how they imagine eating humans for revenge and the rest of the 'karma crowd' along with one who even says that abortion and war are caused by eating meat. Rofl.

There is nothing like logic when you complain about people using herbs and sauces to eat meat. Newsflash, plenty of vegans, omnivores and vegetarians use sauces on non-animal foods. Or haven't you heard of Thai lentil soup with herbs, peanuts, spices, coconut and squash? Are you serious? I have a ton of vegetarian cookbooks with all sorts of sauces for non-dairy, non-animal product foods. Please get a grip.

There are places that one can get dairy etc., along with places where calves are kept with their mothers. One can find humane places if you look for them. The world is not going to stop and throw out thousands of years of food history just because you want to rewrite it and impose your dogmatic world onto the rest of us.

7:19AM PDT on May 24, 2014

[Continued]

Go ahead, eat your animals & animal products. I'm sick of people being blind to the truth & calling it propaganda. I'm sick of people with no morals & no respect to life opening their uneducated, impolite mouths & telling me to "get a grip". I'm quitting this site here, but as long as I'm alive, I'll keep protecting animals from the human greed & insolence. Until then, enjoy the few years you have left. I know I'm going to live a long, healthy life, & I know that the future is vegan & that, one day, you will all be seen for what you really are: monsters.

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