Fascinating Facts About Eggs
If you're a strength or physique athlete, chances are you eat eggs. Lots of them. But what the hell do you know about them, other than that they're a convenient source of protein?
You're like a member of one of those couples who've been together for years but don't know a damn thing about each other. Shame, shame on you.
Well, it's not too late to make amends and get to know something about that food item that's been with you during good times and bad. Here are ten things about chicken eggs, some useful, some good only for trivia fans, and some downright weird.
Some people, probably in an effort to avoid the cholesterol, or maybe just to avoid extra calories, eschew the yolks and just slurp up the whites. Big mistake. Especially for strength or physique athletes.
Scientists have found that eating whole eggs leads to increased testosterone production, probably because they supply the testes with arachidonic acid, an intermediate in testicular steroidogenesis. Whole eggs also induce a surge in mTOR, probably the most important cell-signaling complex for muscle growth. The higher the levels of mTOR, the greater the synthesis of protein.
Most importantly, eating whole eggs increased post-exercise muscle protein synthesis about 45% more than plain egg whites.
The average large egg contains 187 mg. of cholesterol, which is a lot, especially when medical science recommends you limit your daily consumption to 300 mg. or less.
Since eggs contain so much cholesterol, it's always been assumed that they impart a bunch of that cholesterol to your blood, but the findings have been inconsistent. While some studies have shown them to elevate blood levels, a lot of them have shown that egg consumption doesn't affect cholesterol at all.
Eat one egg a day, zip. Eat two eggs a day, also zip. Even eating four eggs a day, in some studies, has shown that eggs are largely benign when it comes to clogging your pipes.
The authors of a recent study (Kim, et al. 2018) think they may know why. They believe that the cholesterol in eggs isn't well-absorbed by the human body. According to them, a couple of phospholipids found in egg yolk (phosphatidylcholine and sphingomyelin) influence intestinal lipid metabolism and decrease the lymphatic absorption of cholesterol. Then there's the egg white itself. It too appears to limit cholesterol absorption by inhibiting the micellar solubility of cholesterol in the intestine.
If these theories prove to be correct, it looks like nature has equipped eggs with a built-in failsafe method to protect the humans who eat them.
A lot of people look at that stringy, gunky stuff that you often see clinging to the eggy yolk and automatically assume it's a chicken embryo. It's not. Stores only sell unfertilized eggs from respectable virgin chickens that are saving themselves for their chicken soulmate.
Those gunky strings are, in fact, what's called "chalaze" and they're just twisted membranes that, when intact, attach the yolk to the inside of the shell. They're completely edible, and their presence tells you the egg is fresh.
If you're baking but find you're out of eggs, you can use pig blood as a substitute. Sixty-five grams of blood will replace one large egg. It seems egg and blood have similar protein compositions, particularly with the albumin that's largely responsible for both of their clotting properties.
All of this comes to us courtesy of the Nordic Food Lab, who are actually considering the possibility of using pig blood in baked goods and even ice cream. (Remember, these are the people who sacrifice people by stuffing them into a disemboweled bear's body and then placing it on a fire... at least that's what I saw in that "Midsommar" movie.)
Egg allergies are pretty common in children, but they also affect some adults. For some reason, the body's immune system becomes sensitized to the proteins in eggs and it overreacts, causing symptoms like skin rashes, hives, nasal congestion, and digestive upset.
These reactions are caused by one or more of five major potentially allergenic proteins in eggs. If any one or more of these proteins are ingested, the proteins trigger an immune response.
However, there might be a workaround. Proteins are composed of individual amino acids that form one or more long chains. However, the proteins break down into their individual amino acids when we heat them.
See what I'm getting at? If you "destroy" the proteins through sufficient heat, you incapacitate the egg's ability to elicit an allergic reaction. Soft boiled or maybe even scrambled eggs still retain a problematic number of intact amino acids, whereas extensively heated eggs (hard-boiled or fried eggs over "hard") might not.
There are, however, people who are super-allergic to eggs, and even extensively heated eggs might not be tolerable. For those people, proceed cautiously and consider seeing an allergy specialist.
Counterfeit eggs are infiltrating several countries around the world, but they're especially common in India. The fake eggs, produced at a cost of about half that of real eggs, are presumably coming from China. The ingredients include resin, starch, coagulant, pigments, and sodium alginate from algae for the egg white; resins and pigments for the yolk; and gypsum powder, paraffin wax, and calcium carbonate for the shell.
A gifted counterfeiter can make up to 1500 of them a day. It sounds preposterous, but according to an article in Time Magazine, the cheaper but less palatable and potentially unhealthy eggs look so realistic that some consumers are giving up real eggs entirely.
Remember that scene from the first Rocky movie where Balboa quaffs a glass full of raw eggs for breakfast? Well, if he did that every morning, he'd have shown up to his fight with Apollo looking quite a bit different than what was shown in the film.
He'd have had noticeable patchy, red, eroded lesions on his face and, also, if his trunks had slipped down, his groin. His eyebrows and eyelashes might have been missing, too, and he wouldn't have lasted one round because he would've been suffering from depression, lethargy, limb numbness, and even hallucinations.
The preceding are all signs of a biotin deficiency, and it's what can happen if someone has a predilection for eating raw eggs. The problem is that raw egg (specifically, the egg white) contains a chemical named avidin, which binds to biotin, leading to deficiency. However, since avidin is a protein, it denatures when you cook the egg, thus preventing its ability to bind up biotin.
So don't be like Rocky. Cook your eggs.
The shell of an egg is porous, so air passes through the shell, so much so that eggs develop internal air pockets as they age. That property allows you to test whether a questionable egg is fresh or old.
Just plop it in a glass of water. If it floats, it's an egg drawing social security benefits. If it sinks, it's youthful and idealistic. Cook it quick and kill all its dreams.
To tell if a whole egg's been hard-cooked, spin it on its side. If it struggles to gain momentum and slow quickly, it's raw. But if it continues to spin quickly, it's hard boiled. The reason this happens is that a raw egg is liquid, its stability is compromised. The liquid sloshes around inside and prevents a smooth spin.
A hard-boiled egg, however, is solid inside, so it can continue to spin at a rapid rate.
Eggs pass through the same dark cloacal tunnel as a chicken's feces, making them vulnerable to Salmonella and other bacteria. Egg-perts from other countries will tell you that Salmonella poisoning is extremely rare, so they don't bother to refrigerate their eggs. Instead, they sit on shelves the same as their Cocoa Krispies, or as they're known in several of these non egg-refrigerating countries, Choco Krispis.
Eggs have a protective coating on the outside, known as the "bloom," which, under ordinary circumstances, might protect the egg against microbial incursion. However, in a kind of irony, American egg distributors inadvertently wash the bloom off the egg to make sure it doesn't carry any Salmonella.
It's likely they'd be better off leaving the egg's natural bacterial barrier in place and let the egg protect itself. In any event, because the bloom has been washed off, Americans are advised to refrigerate their eggs to minimize bacterial infection.
- Kim JE et al. Dietary Cholesterol Contained in Whole Eggs Is Not Well Absorbed and Does Not Acutely Affect Plasma Total Cholesterol Concentration in Men and Women: Results from 2 Randomized Controlled Crossover Studies. Nutrients. 2018 Sep 9;10(9):1272. PubMed.
- van Vliet S et al. Consumption of whole eggs promotes greater stimulation of postexercise muscle protein synthesis than consumption of isonitrogenous amounts of egg whites in young men. Am J Clin Nutr. 2017 Dec;106(6):1401-1412. PubMed.
- Bagheri R et al. Whole Egg Vs. Egg White Ingestion During 12 Weeks of Resistance Training in Trained Young Males. J Strength Cond Res. 2021 Feb 1;35(2):411-419. PubMed.
- Luoma TC. Luoma's Big Damn Book of Knowledge. Vintage Classics – Penguin Books, London, 17th edition, 2021.