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It’s late, and I’m angry.

Home/CrossFit Ktown Knoxville, Uncategorized/It’s late, and I’m angry.

It’s late, and I’m angry.



A1) Wide Squat: 5×3

A2) Seated DB Press: 5×5

MetCon – AMRAP 5 min:
5 1-arm KB Swings ea. Arm
5 KB Clean and Push Press ea. Arm
5 KB Snatches ea. Arm
Use 35/20lb KB – cannot set bell down during 5 min.

I had about half a dozen people email, text, or talk to me at some point Monday and Tuesday regarding a report published in  There were probably another half dozen friends and family that like to rile me up whenever one of these studies is published.  For some reason it still works, but it is beginning to get boring debunking these things.  Here is the link to the article on the study:

So this article says a lot of the same things we’ve heard before, namely dietary cholesterol raises serum cholesterol which leads to atherosclerosis which can in turn be a contributor to cardiovascular disease.  YAWN…  Skip this next part if you just want to hear what I have to say about the article and study.

I so badly wanted to be a scientist (didn’t make the cut), and I know that in science you cannot bring your biases with you when doing or critiquing research.  I try to come in to each one of these papers like it is a first performance.  Never have I heard the argument like this.  But it just isn’t true.  I know we are still in the infancy of good nutritional research drawing legitimate conclusions; however, I yearn for the day we have this dietary cholesterol hypothesis wrapped up for good.

I am afraid that I am getting a bit long in the wind here, and I apologize to the readers that cannot sit through a 10 paragraph blog post (most of you), but spare me a moment on scientific rigor.  I wasn’t totally honest when I said I wanted to be a scientist; I actually wanted to be a physicist.  Physics is the only pure science.  It elevates itself above all others.  And to do research in the field of physics is like walking through a M.A.S.H.-era Korean minefield – that is to say succinctly, wrought with danger.  Now it is a different kind of danger, of course.  Instead of losing a limb to a mine you will more likely be lambasted by your peers during their review of your shoddy research.  This is a great mechanism to weed out crappy science.  Peer review is a lot like those middle school dances: no one wants to get embarrassed so they take the utmost care in making sure every detail is fine-tuned and picture-perfect.

Sadly, nutrition is not the same.  It is a young science, or at least experimental nutrition with the rigor of science applied to it is still in its infancy.  Physics possess grand theories and laws.  Nutrition researchers still quibble over guidelines to give the public and whether or not food questionnaires are worthwhile research tools.  This isn’t to say physics lacks these disputes.  Physicists quibble over whether or not thermodynamics should be taught with or without vectors or whether we live in a steady-state universe versus an ever-expanding one.  But there is still great rigor in the journals of physics, whereas the journals of nutrition are forever making me scratch my head asking what credentials the authors have.

Maybe nutrition, as a science and an industry, is ruled by big corporations that have goals that may not necessarily align with the health of the public.  Maybe Monsanto and Cargill have enough money to skew research to say positive things about their products.  Is it that people stand to make or lose a lot of money depending on what nutritionists claim in their papers?  It is my contention that not only is there some poor science taking place, but that nutrition is also a field that can be easily adulterated, or at the least muddled, by the market.  Yes, I understand it is hard to create good studies in human nutrition because it is unethical to feed a hypothesized carcinogenic diet to a person just for the sake of science.  But epidemiological studies can still give us conclusions if they are done properly and responsibly.

I’m really sorry you had to read that.  It was a crazy person’s diatribe.  Hopefully you skipped ahead to this part…

My first problem with the study is the use of food questionnaires.  This requires the person filling it out to accurately remember their egg consumption, in this case in their entire lifetime.  They also had to be accurate with how much smoking they did, if any, and recall all of this information for their entire lives.  There were no questions on exercise, stress, or lifestyle, but the researchers stated such at the end of their paper.

Something to note: all of the participants had recently had a stroke.  These questionnaires were given out to these patients once they came back to the hospital for check-ups post stroke episode.  This is not a study on a group of healthy individuals or even a randomized group.  Every single person in this study had already had a stroke or mini-stroke.

Furthermore, the group studied had an average BMI of 27.3, which is considered overweight, and their average scores on blood lipid tests are as follows: total cholesterol of 189, HDL of 51, and triglycerides of 168.  I had to convert to our usual mg/dl because this paper was published in Canada and so they used the silly unit of mmol/L.  Who does that?!  Note: just because the authors of the paper are Canadian should have no bearing on your opinion of their science.

So those numbers may mean nothing to you all.  That cholesterol score puts them in a good range by today’s sickly standards.  HDL is below optimal levels.  And triglycerides put them in a borderline high range.  All of these ranges are based on your standard American’s health and, therefore, should be taken with a grain of salt.  What I am saying is these numbers are actually much worse than the typical ranges applied to them, in my humble opinion.  And so I have shown you that this study was done on sickly people that had already had a stroke episode.  Next…

Since the authors contend that egg-yolk consumption increases carotid plaque area, we need to look at who these people are eating all the eggs.  The researchers break down the group in to quintiles based on egg-yolk years.  They created this unit, egg-yolk years, by taking the number of eggs (which had to include yolks) eaten per week and multiplying by how many years you ate at that level.  So 3 eggs eaten per week for 50 years gives you a total of 150 egg-yolk years.  So our quintiles are created: <50, 50-110, 110-150, 150-200, >200 egg-yolk years.  Let us look at these insatiable egg eaters, the >200 egg-yolk years quintile.

This quintile has the highest average age at 69.77 years with a standard deviation of 11.38.  This is the oldest quintile by over 5 years.  The next oldest quintile is the 150-200 egg-yolk years at 64.55 years.  The youngest group at 55 years old was also the group to consume the least amount of eggs.  So our groups eating the most eggs are also the oldest people.  The authors maintained that age alone is a good indicator of carotid plaque build-up, so I would assert that the people eating the most eggs, being the oldest people in the study, should naturally have the most carotid plaque build-up.  But let us not stop here!

Guess who smoked the most.  If you made it this far in this God-forsaken post, I bet you were correct in guessing the >200 egg-yolk years quintile.  The authors argued that smoking was carcinogenic and created carotid plaque even quicker than eating eggs.  Oops!

Allow me a few more quick notes on our voracious egg eaters.  The >200 quintile had the highest HDL cholesterol, sometimes referred to as the “good” cholesterol even though labels like this are misleading.  They also had the lowest total cholesterol and second lowest total triglycerides!  AND THEY HAD THE LOWEST BMI!  Sorry for the caps there, but how many other positive factors did the researchers need to see on this group?

Now we are on to some neat little graphs the researchers presented us with.  The first one shows how much carotid plaque we have on the y-axis while the age is on the x-axis.  It goes without saying that the older persons had more plaque build-up.  The age group most matching the quintile we have been breaking down actually turns out to be two age groups: 60-69 and 70-79.  The former has about 150 square millimeters while the latter turns out to be around 200 mm2.  Our quintile has an average age of 69.77 years, so they would fall pretty evenly in to both of the aforementioned groups.  Our quintile also has an average carotid plaque score of 175.77 mm2.  I don’t know about you, but 175 seems pretty close to the mean of 150 and 200.  It is beginning to look like age alone would be a great predictor of carotid plaque.  It correlates so perfectly!  Isn’t that all we need, correlation?  NO!

So our esteemed authors end their paper saying that eating eggs, especially the yolks which are very high in cholesterol, will raise blood serum cholesterol.  They say this even while their Table 2 paints a very different story.  Their highest egg consumers had the lowest total cholesterol, lowest LDL, highest HDL, lowest triglycerides, and lowest BMI.  They do not address this fact at all anywhere in the paper.  They also do not speculate on what mechanism is causing the greater plaque in the high consuming egg group.  With the data they presented, I would posit age is the highest correlated factor.  It is not causative, but sure as heck is the only factor in their research that correlates highly.

Maybe eating the eggs is what was keeping those older folks alive?

Do not expect me to dissect another study like this for quite some time,
Coach G


P.S. – The paper is only $30 if you want to purchase it and check my work.  I can also print it off and put in the bathrooms for some light reading.  But if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t like to poop in public bathrooms then purchase the paper online.

P.P.S. – I wrote this very late so I am not going to spell/grammar check.  I did check for factual errors.  Here’s to hoping I didn’t miss any.  Man, I need to get my blog posts peer reviewed…

By | 2017-04-25T14:38:33+00:00 August 15th, 2012|CrossFit Ktown Knoxville, Uncategorized|14 Comments


  1. Drake August 15, 2012 at 11:52 am

    Perhaps you can pique the “researchers” interest by linking them to your brief synopsis here. This quote was a personal favorite of mine from the article and suggests maybe this study is only applicable to Canadians:

    “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.”

    I can tell you’re aching for a bowl of Cherrios and some toast, G.

  2. G8r Dave August 15, 2012 at 11:55 am

    A friend of mine on FB, relative, actually, recently posted something about the “amazing” China Study, and the Forks Over Knives movie, and how we all need to check it out and change our diets accordingly, etc. I replied with 4 words…and one character. “China Study = Bad Science”. Unlike G, I didn’t have time to elaborate at the moment but I moved on. Another person replied “What do you mean by ‘bad science’?” I came back with a briefer version of G’s post above about the fallacy of correlation=causation, the lack of RCT and most importantly, researchers who develop a hypothesis, then create a scenario to test that hypothesis and find that it comports to their pre-existing expectations. They thus confirm how smart they are. The damndest thing is that the hypothesis MIGHT BE CORRECT, but their inadequately rigorous testing means that we don’t really know, now do we?

    Good science builds a theory and then attacks that theory with a vigor that rivals the fanaticism of the most ardent opponent. Good science considers every possibility then tests that. Grant is quite right that so much of what fills the air/web these days about nutrition is NOT good science. Know this: There is no deep-pocketed, shadowy trade guild or society that is advancing the fat industry. There are LOTS of such organizations for many other commodities (wheat, grain, GMOs, ethanol as fuel, etc.) We need a fat lobbying organization, dammit.

  3. Ben August 15, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    Wonder what Ktown’s mean egg years would be? Start at 800???

  4. Roberto August 15, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    Today I had a bonus yolk with my 4 eggs! Yes a twin chick yummy

  5. crossfitktown August 15, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    I like the idea, Drake. But I am afraid this research, like many of their previous papers, paint a certain picture for a reason. This morning I read through the disclosures, or conflicts or interest in another sense, and it is enlightening. Both of the doctors receive their research money from pharmaceutical companies manufacturing lipid-lowering drugs including Pfizer, Merck, and AstraZeneca.


  6. Katie W August 15, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    Holy Moly, that was impressive. Thanks for taking the time Grant.

    ps- miss you guys

  7. KMoney August 15, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    The sky is the limit when it comes to study design, with the right statistical analysis you can “prove” anything. We shouldn’t be held accountable if Canadians can’t handle their eggs :p I love in the “Related Articles” section there is an “eggs may cure cancer” article.
    Keep an open mind G. AstraZeneca may be able to help you. Bwahahaha!!!

  8. Roberto August 15, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    Interesting email just came to me after 12 noon From the man himself, Mark Sisson
    How does G do it, beating Sisson to the punch? Old news Mark get on your game, even with a 3 hr time difference, G still punked him


    This past weekend, amidst all the Ancestral Health Symposium madness, I caught the headline while flicking through my phone for a few brief seconds. Didn’t open it up, though. Just cruised on past. I’d hoped to just forget about it, to ignore it, to banish it to the back of my mind where half truths and junk studies go to die. And truth be told, I pretty much had forgotten about it until I checked my email to find a ton of frantic emails from readers wondering if their beloved and dependable egg yolk breakfasts were killing them faster than the cigarettes they don’t smoke. What? You didn’t hear?


    Followed by (with less hysterical capitalization) “May increase carotid plaque build-up.”

  9. DNizzle August 15, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    Peer reviewed articles are better than blogs, but you really can’t make any assumptions about the quality of the work. The general rule is Journals > Conferences > Workshops > Blogs. Case in point, I’m reviewing a paper right now for a conference one of my committee member’s started. I took a single class in the topic the paper is written about, but I’m stuck with it because noone else will review it and I’m the grad student…

  10. crossfitktown August 15, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    Sometimes I’m so proud of your knowledge, Grant. Maybe one day it will rival mine. ;-)
    -Miss J

    P.S. I do so enjoy your debunking of studies.

  11. crossfitktown August 15, 2012 at 5:30 pm

    It looks like Mark Sisson did a more thorough job reviewing this paper:


  12. crossfitktown August 15, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    Willcutts, visit me.

    Kathleen, I’ve told your AstraZeneca joke to two people, and neither of them had the same reaction you and I did. A scourge on them!


  13. Brian Thomas August 15, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    “Egg”-celent article! Eggs can’t be as bad as cigarettes… have you ever heard of an egg yolk starting a forest fire? The suggestion that eggs compare to smoking in any way is ludicrous. Tobacco use causes more than 5 million deaths per year.

    Next, they’re going to say that buttered popcorn at the movies is bad for you…

  14. Geri August 15, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    It’s all political.

Comments are closed.