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Eggs are again linked to heart problems — though the study has problems
Though eggs are back on the menu, some are trying to rewrite the script.
- A new study at Northwestern University found a link between egg consumption and cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality.
- The research relied on self-reporting at the beginning of observation, with no follow-up reporting.
- Correlation is likely, not causation, as larger studies have found the opposite to be true.
Here we go again.
In 2017, Harvard suggested that an egg a day shows no increase in your risk of a heart attack, stroke, or any other type of cardiovascular disease. This is not without caveats: three a week is probably the upper level for those suffering from diabetes; cutting down consumption if you've already experienced a heart attack (or if you smoke) is wise.
Based on similar research, the U.S. government removed limits related to egg consumption on its dietary guidelines. Dietary cholesterol seemed not to be the devil many assumed. Eggs were back on the plate. Faux egg concoctions dwindled. Yolk advocates reclaimed their trophy as more (but not all) restaurants dropped egg white omelettes from their menus.
Now a new study, conducted by researchers at Northwestern University's Department of Preventive Medicine — it was published this month in the medical journal JAMA — claims that high consumption of dietary cholesterol (or eggs) increases your risk of both cardiovascular diseases (CVD) and all-cause mortality.
Are eggs good for you?
Data collection for this paper covered 29,165 participants over 31 years — each participant was followed for an average of 17.5 years. A total of 5,400 CVDs were logged. Specifically: 2,088 coronary artery problems, 1,897 heart failures, 1,302 strokes, and 113 deaths from CVDs. The total number of deaths (all-cause mortality) during this period was 6,132.
The researchers were backtracking to discover participant diets; food logs were not kept. The study is based on self-reporting, which was conducted only at the beginning of the research. Thus, two serious problems: self-reporting without regular tracking can vary widely; their diets might have changed dramatically over the course of 17-plus years. If you claim you eat two eggs a day, then a year later drop eggs altogether, this was not taken into account.
The group's results were derived from tracking 300 mg increases in daily cholesterol intake. (One large egg has 186 mg, all of which are in the yolk.) For every 300 mg added, a 3.24 percent increase in the chance of suffering from CVD and 4.43 percent increase in dying from anything was observed.
To break this down to round numbers, associate professor Norrina Allen, who participated in the study, notes that consuming two eggs per day increases your likelihood of developing heart disease by 27 percent. She also says that the study, being observational, does not include other factors that could play a role in developing CVD, though the team did factor in age, sex, ethnicity, smoking and drinking habits, and exercise levels — again, all self-reported.
When Bruce Y. Lee was a member of the National Academies of Science, Medicine, and Engineering in 2017, he served on a committee that recommended a multi-factor approach to better understand the relationship between diet and health. As an analogy, he writes that during a rocket launch, engineers take into consideration more than one or two weather factors when determining whether or not to conduct the mission.
Turkish men show unsold eggs at Rami Dried Food and Vegetable Market in Istanbul. Photo credit: Ali Ozuler / AFP / Getty Images
This is a constant problem with health studies. For example, Gary Taubes noted that research decrying the macronutrient, fat, never considered the amount of carbohydrates participants were eating, which seriously skewed the results. Fans of ketogenic diets use the same argument to defend their dietary approach.
Lee says that a holistic mindset should be applied with all nutritional research, noting the eggs are excellent sources of "protein, vitamin D, choline, lutein, and zeaxanthin." Focusing exclusively on cholesterol levels while negating the benefits might steer people away from a food that could prove beneficial.
Lee also takes note of a study involving half-million Chinese adults, which showed moderate egg consumption is "significantly associated with lower risk of CVD, largely independent of other risk factors."
Which is all to say that moderation, as with everything, is key. Will an egg a day keep the doctor away? Perhaps. Should you be careful if you suffer from problems such as hypercholesterolemia (genetic high cholesterol)? Absolutely. But does this imply that everyone needs to avoid eggs? Highly doubtful.
Fourteen eggs a week might simply be overkill, especially since you can get the micronutrients elsewhere. Skipping them altogether doesn't appear to be the right move either. Until more isolated research, involving actual dietary tracking and not self-reporting, takes place, headlines about the dangers of eggs need to be taken with a grain — okay, a pinch — of salt.
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Richard Feynman once asked a silly question. Two MIT students just answered it.
Here's a fun experiment to try. Go to your pantry and see if you have a box of spaghetti. If you do, take out a noodle. Grab both ends of it and bend it until it breaks in half. How many pieces did it break into? If you got two large pieces and at least one small piece you're not alone.
But science loves a good challenge<p>The mystery remained unsolved until 2005, when French scientists <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~audoly/" target="_blank">Basile Audoly</a> and <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~neukirch/" target="_blank">Sebastien Neukirch </a>won an <a href="https://www.improbable.com/ig/" target="_blank">Ig Nobel Prize</a>, an award given to scientists for real work which is of a less serious nature than the discoveries that win Nobel prizes, for finally determining why this happens. <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/spaghetti/audoly_neukirch_fragmentation.pdf" target="_blank">Their paper describing the effect is wonderfully funny to read</a>, as it takes such a banal issue so seriously. </p><p>They demonstrated that when a rod is bent past a certain point, such as when spaghetti is snapped in half by bending it at the ends, a "snapback effect" is created. This causes energy to reverberate from the initial break to other parts of the rod, often leading to a second break elsewhere.</p><p>While this settled the issue of <em>why </em>spaghetti noodles break into three or more pieces, it didn't establish if they always had to break this way. The question of if the snapback could be regulated remained unsettled.</p>
Physicists, being themselves, immediately wanted to try and break pasta into two pieces using this info<p><a href="https://roheiss.wordpress.com/fun/" target="_blank">Ronald Heisser</a> and <a href="https://math.mit.edu/directory/profile.php?pid=1787" target="_blank">Vishal Patil</a>, two graduate students currently at Cornell and MIT respectively, read about Feynman's night of noodle snapping in class and were inspired to try and find what could be done to make sure the pasta always broke in two.</p><p><a href="http://news.mit.edu/2018/mit-mathematicians-solve-age-old-spaghetti-mystery-0813" target="_blank">By placing the noodles in a special machine</a> built for the task and recording the bending with a high-powered camera, the young scientists were able to observe in extreme detail exactly what each change in their snapping method did to the pasta. After breaking more than 500 noodles, they found the solution.</p>
The apparatus the MIT researchers built specifically for the task of snapping hundreds of spaghetti sticks.
(Courtesy of the researchers)
What possible application could this have?<p>The snapback effect is not limited to uncooked pasta noodles and can be applied to rods of all sorts. The discovery of how to cleanly break them in two could be applied to future engineering projects.</p><p>Likewise, knowing how things fragment and fail is always handy to know when you're trying to build things. Carbon Nanotubes, <a href="https://bigthink.com/ideafeed/carbon-nanotube-space-elevator" target="_self">super strong cylinders often hailed as the building material of the future</a>, are also rods which can be better understood thanks to this odd experiment.</p><p>Sometimes big discoveries can be inspired by silly questions. If it hadn't been for Richard Feynman bending noodles seventy years ago, we wouldn't know what we know now about how energy is dispersed through rods and how to control their fracturing. While not all silly questions will lead to such a significant discovery, they can all help us learn.</p>
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In a recent study, researchers examined how Christian nationalism is affecting the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- A new study used survey data to examine the interplay between Christian nationalism and incautious behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The researchers defined Christian nationalism as "an ideology that idealizes and advocates a fusion of American civic life with a particular type of Christian identity and culture."
- The results showed that Christian nationalism was the leading predictor that Americans engaged in incautious behavior.
A pastor at the chapel of the St. Josef Hospital on April 1, 2020 in Bochum, German
Sascha Schuermann/Getty Images<p>Christian nationalists, in general, believe the U.S. and God's will are tied together, and they want the government to embody conservative Christian values and symbols. As such, they also believe the nation's fate depends on how closely it adheres to Christianity.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unsurprisingly then, in the midst of the COVID‐19 pandemic, conservative pastors prophesied God's protection over the nation, citing America's righteous support for President Trump and the prolife agenda," the researchers write.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Correspondingly, the link between Christian nationalism and God's influence on how COVID‐19 impacts America can be seen in proclamations about God's divine judgment for its immorality―with the logic being that God is using the pandemic to draw wayward America <em>back </em>to himself, which assumes the two belong together."</p><p>The logical conclusion to this kind of thinking: America can save itself not through cautionary measures, like mask-wearing, but through devotion to God. What's more, it stands to reason that Christian nationalists are less likely to trust the media and scientists, given that these sources are generally not concerned with promoting a conservative, religious view of the world.</p><p>(The researchers note that they're unaware of any research directly linking Christian nationalism to distrust of media sources, but that they're almost certain the two are connected.)</p>
Predicted values of Americans' frequency of incautious behaviors during the COVID‐19 pandemic across values of Christian nationalism
Perry et al.<p>In the new study, the researchers examined three waves of results from the Public and Discourse Ethics Survey. One wave of the survey was issued in May, and it asked respondents to rate how often they engaged in both incautious and precautionary behaviors.</p><p>Incautious behaviors included things like "ate inside a restaurant" and "went shopping for nonessential items," while precautionary behaviors included "washed my hands more often than typical" and "wore a mask in public."</p><p>To measure Christian nationalism, the researchers asked respondents to rate how strongly they agree with statements like "the federal government should advocate Christian values" and "the success of the United States is part of God's plan."</p><p>The results suggest that, compared to other groups, Christian nationalists are far less likely to wear masks, socially distance and take other precautionary measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Christian nationalism was the leading predictor that Americans engaged in incautious behavior during the pandemic, and the second leading predictor that Americans avoided taking precautionary measures."</p><p>But that's not to say that religious beliefs are causing Americans to reject mask-wearing or social distancing. In fact, when the study accounted for Christian nationalist beliefs, the results showed that Americans with high levels of religiosity were likely to take precautionary measures for COVID-19.</p>
Limitations<p>Still, the researchers note that they're theorizing about the connections between Christian nationalism and COVID-19 behaviors, not documenting them directly. What's more, they suggest that certain experiences — such as having a family member that contracts COVID-19 — might change a Christian nationalist's behaviors during the pandemic.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Limitations notwithstanding, the implications of this study are important for understanding Americans' curious inability to quickly implement informed and reasonable strategies to overcome the threat of COVID‐19, an inability that has likely cost thousands of lives," they write.</p>
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