Bad science blogging: egg-on-your-face edition

“Eggs are Nearly as Bad for Your Arteries as Cigarettes!”

I guess the exclamation point in the title of this post on a militant (hate to recycle that word from the “militant atheists” idiots, but it sometimes fits) vegan blog is supposed to add veracity, or intrigue, or something.  But a survey of several of my friends proves that this is bullshit, and that exclamation points intended to lend support to an idea instead imply that the idea is flimsy at best, laughable at worst. And a survey is as good as a formal study, at least in some people’s view.

Yes, egg yolks contain a lot of cholesterol, and cholesterol has indeed been associated with atherosclerosis and attendant health problems and risks. Smoking’s effects on the cardiovascular system are well established. Good. But the finer points of the “One Green Planet” post are off the mark and signal bias, laziness or both.

Here’s the breakdown.

“According to a new study published in Atherosclerosis, consuming eggs may be nearly as detrimental to heart health as smoking cigarettes.

“For the study, researchers at Western Ontario University surveyed 1,231 patients about diet, smoking, and exercise. They then used ultrasound to establish a measurement of total arterial plaque.”

Nothing disagreeable so far. But the post quickly flies off the reality rails:

“(Researchers) found that the patients who consumed the most whole eggs experienced a narrowing of the carotid artery 2/3 that of the study’s heaviest smokers.”

In fact, the researchers found no such thing. In no logical world does “Eating yolks triggered plaque build-up at two thirds the rate for people who are smokers” translate to what the blogger claims about the degree of stenosis.

“Researchers also found people eating three or more egg yolks a week had significantly more plaque on their artery walls than those eating two or fewer yolks a week.”

Hardly groundbreaking or surprising, and wholly unrelated to smoking in any event.

Skipping ahead a few paragraphs (the blogger expends a few sentences parroting material from the Atlantic Monthly article she linked to in her second ‘graf), we have this:

“Lead researcher Dr. David Spence explained: ‘What we have shown is that with aging, plaque builds up gradually in the arteries of Canadians, and egg yolks make it build up faster – about two-thirds as much as smoking. In the long haul, egg yolks are not okay for most Canadians.’ We’re guessing this also applies to Americans.”

Follow that link and you get this: “Dr. Spence found regular consumption of egg yolks is about two-thirds as bad as smoking when it comes to increased build-up of carotid plaque, a risk factor for stroke and heart attack.” I’m sorry, but since when was “bad” a scientific term? What the hell does “two thirds as bad” mean in a medical context? Give me me something about mortality rates or incidence of adverse cardiac events or something. “Bad” can mean anything, including a Michael Jackson song.

Also note that as one of the commenters pointed out, the study the One Green Planet bloggers cited is not supported, to say the least, by a number of other studies involving much larger numbers of subjects and (one assumed) not reliant on information about lifestyle habits provided over the phone.

Finally, the blogger ignores the vast array of detrimental effects of smoking that are clearly not a by-product of eating eggs, e.g., COPD, lung cancer, and so on. She instead stipulates that if eating eggs leads to almost as much plaque build-up as does smoking, then that’s all anyone needs to know. Convenient, but lousy reasoning.

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