Thursday, June 13, 2013

What's the deal with raw eggs? By Vic Goyaram

What's the deal with raw eggs?
Researched and composed by Vic Goyaram
Exclusive for Bodybuilding Mauritius & South Africa

  • Cooking neither destroys nor reduces the protein in an egg, unless you forget the egg on the stove and burn it. Raw eggs do not contain any extra growth factor or some mysterious anabolic compound that cooking inactivates.
  • Cooking destroys Avidin and Salmonella two of the bad guys in raw eggs.
  • If you like to drink liquid egg, buy pasteurised liquid eggs.
  • Adding 2-3 raw eggs to your shakes is quite unlikely to give you Biotin deficiency or Salmonella poisoning, unless the egg is heavily infected.
The practice of consuming raw eggs to build muscle began in the late 1890s by fitness and nutrition guru Bernarr Mcfadden but undeniably it is Rocky Balboa who made it popular. There is a lot of myths and misconceptions regarding the consumption of raw eggs that still persist to this day. This article attempts to address these points.
Fig. 1: Stallone in Rocky made drinking raw eggs popular
Is drinking raw eggs hardcore?
It is good to have a hardcore approach. But I believe that having a hardcore approach does not mean you must not enjoy the things you eat. It does not mean that you must select a chalk-flavoured whey protein if you have the option of a vanilla flavour. It does not mean that you must add tuna to a protein shake when you can in fact eat the tuna first and then wash it down with a protein shake. A hardcore approach must rather be reflected, for instance, in the gym by the squat rack and how you deal with challenging life situations. Likewise for eggs, there are alternative ways that you can enjoy them rather than drinking them raw. If there were real nutritional benefits of consuming raw eggs (v/s cooked) the latter practice would have been understandable but as we will see in this article, there isn't any real benefit of consuming raw eggs. Rather, there are more potential drawbacks than any real benefit.
One of the right definitions of hardcore
Consuming raw eggs is more convenient: true!
I agree that drinking raw eggs is more convenient to get your egg protein because it takes less space in your stomach. It is easier to gulp down 6 whole eggs than to cook and eat them as cooking the egg increases the volume. Some people really struggle with appetite and drinking the eggs may be a convenient option for them to obtain their egg protein. However, there may be considerations before cracking up eggs and drinking them like Salmonella and inhibitor of the vitamin Biotin (Avidin), both of which will be discussed in the coming sections. If you struggle to eat cooked eggs and would prefer raw eggs without its potential dangers then pasteurised liquid eggs (whole or whites only) is a convenient solution. I am not sure whether it is sold in Mauritius but where I am in South Africa these are sold. The only major downside is the cost, however.
Fig. 2: Pasteurised eggs have undergone pasteurisation which is
a process that kills bacteria in the eggs, thus reducing the
possibility of infections if consumed raw
Cooking denatures but does not destroy the egg protein
A very common reason which is given to justify the consumption of raw eggs is that cooking denatures the egg protein. Yes, this is true. Cooking does denature the albumen protein which makes up the egg protein. But the important question is: does denaturation affect the protein nutrition of the egg? The answer is NO.

Denaturation refers to a change in structure of the protein. You may remember from our lessons on amino acids (Click here to read) that proteins are made up of chains of amino acids. These chains (Figure 3) are folded in a certain way and this folding is maintained by means of chemical bonds (A). When heat is applied, these bonds are broken and that's what denaturation is all about (B). As heat is applied for longer there are new bonds that form (C). These new bonds  cooked eggs the opaque solid mass appearance that we all know. As you can see in the diagram, only bonds are broken and reformed as a result of cooking. The chains of amino acids are still fine. Your body can break them down through digestion to release the amino acids. and it is the amino acids that we are most interested in. Therefore, heating denatures the protein in eggs, yes, but in no way does the denaturation reduce its protein nutrition. Raw eggs having more protein and better protein than cooked eggs is a MYTH.
Fig. 3: The process of protein denaturation by heating. 
Cooking in fact improves the digestibility of egg protein because the changes in the protein molecule induced by heating enable digestive enzymes to gain better access to the peptide bonds that hold the amino acids together. Conversely, raw eggs have been found to be less digestible because of the presence of trypsin (digestive enzyme) inhibitors in the eggs. In one study, it was shown that after ingestion of 25 g of raw egg protein, almost 50% is malabsorbed over 24 h.

Raw eggs and the risk of biotin deficiency 
Biotin is an important vitamin of the B-group. It is sometimes called Vitamin B7 or Vitamin H. It serves several functions like cell growth, fatty acid synthesis, fat and amino acid metabolism and the maintenance of blood sugar levels. Biotin is also such as meats, saltwater fish, cooked egg yolks, milk, poultry, legumes, whole grains and brewer’s yeast. The issue with eggs and biotin that is often raised is that consuming raw egg whites may set the stage to biotin deficiency. This is because the egg white contains a protein called Avidin. This protein, in its active form in raw eggs, binds to biotin and thus makes it unabsorbable by the body. Cooking deactivates the Avidin. If you decide to consume raw eggs make sure you consume the whole egg because the yolk contains a lot of biotin. Consuming pasteurised egg whites is not a problem as pasteurisation neutralises the Avidin protein. The bodybuilding diet is quite varied and includes good sources of biotin as well as multivitamin/ mineral supplements so personally I don't think biotin deficiency is a problem.
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Raw eggs and the risk of salmonella poisoning
The risk of salmonella poisoning is a very common reason given against the consumption of raw eggs. Salmonella (scientific name: Salmonella enterica, serovar Enteritidis) is a bacterium which can infect chicken and then get into the egg as it is formed. Most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, vomiting, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. In most cases, the illness lasts four to seven days, and most people recover without treatment. In some people, the diarrhea may be so severe that dehydration happens and hospitalisation is necessary.
These little beasts are Salmonella bacteria
Cooking the egg destroys the salmonella. Pasteurised eggs are also devoid of salmonella. The issue here is that for the consumer to be infected and subsequently develop symptoms, there must be what we call and "oral infective dose". This means that the bacteria must be present in sufficient amounts in order to progress to infection, otherwise they are easily destroyed by the body's first line of defence (e.g stomach acids). This means that if you are eating 1-2 whole eggs you are very unlikely to get infected by salmonella. It all depends on how much you are consuming and also where you are getting your eggs from as the type of farming practice also has an impact on salmonella infection of eggs. The industrialisation of egg production has made it more favourable for the spread of Salmonella than traditional methods.
The basics of Salmonella infection and treatment
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My Bio: I am a Mauritian originally from Roche Bois, Port Louis and now based in Cape Town, South Africa where I am busy with my postgraduate studies in molecular biology of exercise. My research, supervised by Prof. Edward Ojuka, looks at the influence of nutrition and exercise in gene expression in muscle, research which is relevant and applicable to exercising individuals, sports persons and diabetic individuals. The knowledge that I share with you stems from my 18 years of experience in bodybuilding and 8 years (and counting) of university education in the field. I have also published work in the American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism (2013), International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism (2013) and co-authored two book chapters on exercise and diabetes. I also presented my research work at the 2012 International Sports and Exercise Nutrition Conference (UK). I am grateful to each and everyone at the UCT Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine. "Knowledge without sharing is worth nothing"
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