Food as Lifestyle Medicine

Featured article in the Fall 2019 Issue of Nutrition Close-Up; written by Victoria Shanta Retelny, RDN, LDN

Disease prevention is the key when it comes to living a longer, healthier life. Lifestyle medicine, which focuses on prevention rather than treatment of chronic diseases, is gaining momentum. The World Health Organization estimates that, by 2020, two-thirds of all diseases will be a result of lifestyle factors.1 The good news is that chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers, could be avoided through the adoption of healthy lifestyle recommendations.2 Healthful eating is one of the main interventions in lifestyle medicine – along with active living, healthy weight and emotional resilience – the ability to handle adverse situations and bounce back to your baseline state of health.2 Therefore, recognizing that a nourishing, healthy eating pattern is a vital part of disease prevention and supports an active, healthy and happy life is essential.

A plant-forward diet of fiber-filled vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds combined with high-quality protein foods, such as eggs, are all part of a healthy eating pattern. Eggs are game-changers in the kitchen – they are versatile and pair well with plant foods, plus they can help with the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients, such as vitamin E and carotenoids.3,4 Plus, eggs are a nutrient-dense food – for only 70 calories, a large egg offers a good or excellent source of eight essential nutrients, including an excellent source of vitamin B12, biotin, iodine, selenium and choline. Together, the egg yolk and white offer a unique nutrient package, however nearly all of the vitamins and minerals are in the marigoldcolored yolk. The yolk carries the vitamins A, D, and E, as well as iron, selenium, phosphorus, zinc, choline – and the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, making consumption of the whole egg a smart nutrition move.

Evidence shows that incorporating eggs into a regular eating pattern is a beneficial adjunct to a healthy lifestyle. Nutrients found in eggs can play a role in supporting the total body from brain to eyes, to muscles and bones. Eggs have two important nutrients for cognitive health – lutein and choline. Choline is critical for brain development during pregnancy and infancy. Humans can produce small amounts of choline, however it must be consumed in the diet to prevent deficiency.5 Two large eggs supply more than half of the recommended intake of choline for pregnant women.6 Lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids abundant in egg yolks (252 mcg per large egg), is known to accumulate in the retina of the eyes and help prevent age-related macular degeneration, but recently science has shown that lutein accumulates in the brain, as well, and can help older adults to maintain sharp cognitive abilities6 and children perform better in school.7 With the rate of diabetes continuing to climb among Americans, eating eggs can be beneficial as they have high-quality protein, essential nutrients and no added sugar, plus eggs have been shown to help increase feelings of fullness, which may lead to eating less and potential weight loss. In a randomized control trial, people with type 2 diabetes were less hungry and satiated after eating two eggs per day.8 Additionally, the same trial reported no adverse changes in cardiometabolic risk factors with two eggs per day compared to a low egg diet.9

Ultimately, one food alone doesn’t predict an individual’s health outcomes as it’s the culmination of lifestyle factors such as dietary patterns, physical activity, as well as genetics, that affects the predisposition to chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.10 However, the synergy of optimal nutrients in eggs can help contribute to the disease prevention strategies inherent in lifestyle medicine to promote health and longevity.

Vicki Shanta Retelny, RDN, is a lifestyle nutrition expert, writer, speaker and culinary consultant. She is the author of two books, The Essential Guide to Healthy Healing Foods and Total Body Diet for Dummies. She lives to eat well with her husband, two children and their pet pug in Chicago, IL. Vicki blogs at Simple Cravings. Real Food.

References

1. Chopra M, et al. A global response to a global problem: the epidemic of overnutrition. Bull World Health Organ. 2002;80:952-958.

2. Bodai BI, et al. Lifestyle medicine: A brief review of its dramatic impact on health and survival. Perm J. 2018;22:17-025.

3. Kim JE, et al. Egg Consumption Increases Vitamin E Absorption from Co-Consumed Raw Mixed Vegetables in Healthy Young Men. J Nutr. 2016;146:2199-2205.

4. Kim JE, et al. Effects of egg consumption on carotenoid absorption from co-consumed, raw vegetables. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015;102:75-83.

5. Dietary Reference Intakes for Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline. (National Academy Press, 1998).

6. Ylilauri MPT, et al. Association of dietary cholesterol and egg intakes with the risk of incident dementia or Alzheimer disease: The Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016;105:476-484.

7. Barnett , SM, et al. Macular pigment optical density is positively associated with academic performance among preadolescent children. Nutr Neurosci. 2018;21(9):632-640.

8. Fuller NR, et al. The effect of a high-egg diet on cardiovascular risk factors in people with type 2 diabetes: the Diabetes and Egg (DIABEGG) study – a 3-mo randomized controlled trial. 2015;101:705-13.

9. Fuller NR, et al. Eff ect of a high-egg diet on cardiometabolic risk factors in people with type 2 diabetes: the Diabetes and Egg (DIABEGG) Study randomized weight-loss and follow-up phase. 2018; 107(6):921-931.

10. Geiker NRW, et al. Egg consumpti on, cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2018;72:44-56.