Many studies, not all, have associated egg consumption to aggressive prostate cancer. That’s a doozy since eggs are a staple diet for most and a preferred source of protein for many.
Let’s take a look at the scientific data regarding egg consumption and prostate cancer.
In The Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (HPFS), a study observing over fifty thousand male health professionals since 1986 noticed that men who consumed ≥2.5 eggs per week had a 1.8-fold increased risk of developing lethal prostate cancer compared with men who consumed <0.5 eggs per week. However, this study found no association between consumption of eggs and risk of deadly prostate cancer after diagnosis.
On the other hand, results from 15 prospective cohort study involving 842,149 men from North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia, examined the association of incidence of prostate cancer and the intake of unprocessed and processed red meat, seafood, eggs, and poultry. No association among unprocessed red meat, processed red meat poultry and seafood and prostate cancer was made.
However, a connection was detected between eggs intake and fatal prostate cancers risk.
The Cancer of the Prostate Strategic Urologic Research Endeavor (CaPSURE), another very large male study found an increased risk of recurrence for higher intakes of eggs (and poultry with skin) around the time of diagnosis.
Egg intake in CaPSURE was higher, with a mean of 7.9 servings per week compared to 3.2 servings per week in our population. Also, CaPSURE™, men who consumed the most eggs after prostate cancer diagnosis ( about 5.5 eggs per week) had a two-fold increased risk of prostate cancer recurrence compared with men who consumed the least eggs (<0.5 eggs per week)
A Swedish study also reported that men with the highest plasma levels of choline had a 46 % increased risk of prostate cancer compared with men with the lowest levels.
One study of studies (meta-analysis) suggested no association with risk of prostate cancer diagnosis or prostate cancer-specific mortality from consumption of eggs.
Breast cancer, ovarian cancer and again prostate cancer were at higher rates amongst people who consumed eggs in this study.
Are Eggs from Hens raised in better conditions protective against cancer?
Almost all eggs in the United States are from hens living in a stressed environment under unsanitary cages surrounded by manure infested by flies, maggots, and rodents. Lastly, hens are often starved (a process called molting) to increase egg production.
Eggs raised in such unfavorable environments may play a role in the interaction of nutrient content in our bodies but I am not sure how protective or contributory they are in cancer formation.
Why are Eggs Connected to an Increase Risk of Prostate Cancer?
It seems like the connection between eggs, and prostate cancer is on an (important) nutrient called choline. The crux is that choline is essential for human life and mental performance and we would not do well without it.
And that’s what makes the association with nutrition and cancer confusing and frustrating.
Here’s another thing, choline is used as a tracer for a specific type of PET scan called Choline C-11 PET scan to find smaller prostate cancer cells in the body that can’t be found with other imaging technology.
What does this mean?
A tracer is a substance introduced into the body gobbled up by cancer cells so such cells can light up in images and location of cancer can be found.
Amongst integrative oncologists, it is often said that sugar is bad for cancer because glucose ( a simple sugar) is taken up by cancer cells in another type of PET scan called F-FDG PET.
If the argument with excess sugar consumption is true, then it must apply to choline as well. No?
What is Choline?
Choline is a nutrient in food with many important roles to support health including brain function similar to but not from the family of B-vitamins.
Choline and its metabolites are needed for three main physiological purposes:
- structural integrity and signaling roles for cell membranes,
- cholinergic neurotransmission (acetylcholine synthesis),
- a source for methyl groups via its metabolite, trimethylglycine (betaine), which participates in the S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) synthesis pathways.
If this is all sounds like gobbly gook to you, the bottom line is that choline does good things for your body. The recommended adequate intake (AI) of choline is 550 mg/day for men (425mg for women).
One study found that men with the highest choline intake (~500 mg/day) had a 70 % increased risk of incident lethal prostate cancer compared with men with the lowest intake (~300 mg/day)
The top 5 foods contributing to choline in the diets of the participants were whole eggs, beef, skim milk, reduced-fat milk, and poultry without skin.
What to Make out of the association with Eggs, choline and prostate cancer?
Don’t try to eliminate choline from your diet. You won’t be able to as this nutrient is found in a lot of foods and some of those foods are necessary for good health. Besides, many foods that are a five on the CaPLESS Food Rating System, like broccoli and cauliflower contain some choline.
The yolks in eggs carry the choline, not egg whites. One large egg has about 150mg of choline. Eat egg whites mostly, with maybe one egg yolk. I am not sure you have to give up eggs at all if you do not want to, just don’t eat them every day.
Eliminate or limit dairy consumption. Don’t do diets of exclusion, i.e., low-fat or 2% milk, for example. Fat is not your dietarily enemy. Plus taking out a macronutrient from food often mean adding other crap to it. In the case of choline, there seems to be more of it in low-fat and non-fat milk than whole milk.
Don’t take supplements that include phosphatidylcholine or stand-alone lecithin, often found in brain or memory boost supplements if you had prostate cancer or at high risk of it. Lecithin improves absorbability of fat-soluble nutrients like curcumin, and it is often blended for that purpose. The amounts of lecithin, when used for this purpose, is small.
A better nutrient for memory that doesn’t seem to increase prostate cancer risk is Acetyl L-Carnitine which I use in my Advanced ADT Support packet.
And that’s the story between Eggs, choline and prostate cancer. Of course, I could have written a dissertation on this topic but wanted to provide you with brief, actionable information.
Best of Health,