A new study demonstrates adding eggs to plant-based diets in people who are at risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) can improve nutrient intake without impacting cardiovascular risk.1  In this study, plant-based diets were based on the USDA healthy vegetarian meal plan, with modifications to exclude eggs and dairy products.    

This randomized, controlled trial included two dietary interventions: 1) six weeks of an exclusively plant-based diet with no animal-sourced foods or, 2) six weeks of an exclusively plant-based diet + 2 eggs per day. Participants were individuals at risk for T2DM.

Results showed that including two eggs per day in the otherwise exclusively plant-based diet had no impact on measures of cardiometabolic health, including endothelial function, lipid profile, blood pressure, insulin sensitivity, or body weight, despite an expected increase in dietary cholesterol intake. This is consistent with dietary recommendations that indicate eggs can be part of overall healthy diet patterns.2 Importantly, including eggs in a plant-based diet did significantly improve selenium and choline intakes, while there was a decrease in calcium and vitamin K intake.

Choline is important for the brain, nervous system and membranes that surround the body’s cells.3,4  Importantly, the plant-based diet + eggs significantly improved dietary choline intake, but at 410 mg/day, this still does not reach the Adequate Intake (AI) for women. These data show that careful planning is required to meet choline intake, and it might be especially difficult to meet the AI without eating eggs or taking a dietary supplement.5 Additionally, selenium has wide ranging functions and can support overall cardiovascular and immune health.6

This study is particularly strong in demonstrating the value of eggs as part of plant-based diets because other animal-sourced foods have been removed from the intervention. In this way, these new data were able to isolate the impact of eggs and showed no impact on indicators of cardiometabolic health.  However, animal-sourced foods can be important for meeting nutrient needs, as illustrated by inadequate calcium during this study potentially due to exclusion of dairy foods. 

Overall, this new study demonstrates that consuming two eggs daily as part of plant-based diets does not impact cardiometabolic risk factors in adults at risk for T2DM. The authors state, “Eggs could be used as an adjuvant to enhance plant-based diets that are typically recommended for those at risk of T2DM.1”  While larger trials are needed, these new data build on existing literature demonstrating the value of eggs as part of healthy diet patterns for people who have diabetes or are at risk for diabetes.7-11

  1. Njike, V.Y., et al., Egg Consumption in the Context of Plant-Based Diets and Cardiometabolic Risk Factors in Adults at Risk of Type 2 Diabetes. J Nutr, 2021.
  2. Carson, J.A.S., et al., Dietary Cholesterol and Cardiovascular Risk: A Science Advisory From the American Heart Association. Circulation, 2019: p. Cir0000000000000743.
  3. National Institutes of Health. Choline: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. 2021; Available from: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Choline-HealthProfessional/.
  4. National Institutes of Health. Selenium: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. 2021; Available from: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Selenium-HealthProfessional/.
  5. Wallace, T.C. and V.L. Fulgoni, Usual Choline Intakes Are Associated with Egg and Protein Food Consumption in the United States. Nutrients, 2017. 9(8).
  6. Weeks, B.S., M.S. Hanna, and D. Cooperstein, Dietary selenium and selenoprotein function. Medical science monitor : international medical journal of experimental and clinical research, 2012. 18(8): p. RA127-RA132.
  7. Baghdasarian, S., et al., Dietary Cholesterol Intake Is Not Associated with Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in the Framingham Offspring Study. Nutrients, 2018. 10(6).
  8. Lin, H.P., et al., Dietary Cholesterol, Lipid Levels, and Cardiovascular Risk among Adults with Diabetes or Impaired Fasting Glucose in the Framingham Offspring Study. Nutrients, 2018. 10(6).
  9. Pourafshar, S., et al., Egg consumption may improve factors associated with glycemic control and insulin sensitivity in adults with pre- and type II diabetes. Food Funct, 2018. 9(8): p. 4469-4479.
  10. Fuller, N.R., 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. Am J Clin Nutr, 2015. 101(4): p. 705-13.
  11. DiBella, M., et al., Choline Intake as Supplement or as a Component of Eggs Increases Plasma Choline and Reduces Interleukin-6 without Modifying Plasma Cholesterol in Participants with Metabolic Syndrome. Nutrients, 2020. 12(10).