Egg Metabolites Lower Type 2 Diabetes Risk: Insights into a Potential Mechanism

New egg nutrition research was making the headlines once again recently with the news of a new study that showed consumption of one egg every day is associated with a blood metabolite profile that would indicate a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

The study1, published in the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, examined 2,682 men aged 42-60 years of age as part of the Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease (KIHD) Risk Factor Study in Finland. Dietary intakes were assessed with 4-day food records at baseline while type 2 diabetes incidence was assessed at 4, 11, and 20 years. Researchers compared the metabolic profile of individuals with higher egg intake – about one egg per day – to the metabolic profile of those with lower egg intake – about two eggs per week on average. The authors then took this information and looked for any relationships between those who developed type 2 diabetes or those who otherwise remained healthy during a follow-up period of almost 20 years.

The authors found different metabolic profiles between those with higher egg intake compared to those with lower intake. Specifically, individuals with higher egg intake tended to have lower levels of metabolites that are linked with type 2 diabetes, whereas individuals with lower egg intake had higher levels of metabolites that are linked to higher risk of type 2 diabetes.

This new study provides unique insight towards potential mechanisms by which egg intake may lower risk for developing type 2 diabetes over time. It is possible that the metabolic profile of high egg consumers may be a factor in reducing type 2 diabetes risk over time. Whether egg intake promotes metabolites involved in type 2 diabetes risk reduction or reduces metabolites involved in increasing type 2 diabetes risk is not clear from this study and thus more research is needed.

Interestingly, this new study is a follow-up secondary analysis from a study2 originally published in 2015 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and it is important to look back at what the original study found. The original study included the same cohort of Finish men in the KISHD Risk Factor Study in Finland. After adjustment for potential confounders, those in the highest compared with the lowest egg intake quartile had a 38% lower risk of incident type 2 diabetes. The authors also reported lower levels of C-reactive protein, an indicator of inflammation, and lower fasting glucose with higher egg intake.

When viewed together, the results of these studies from the KIHD cohort suggest a reduced risk for type 2 diabetes with egg consumption, an association that may be due in part to a favorable metabolic profile of high egg consumers.

The American Diabetes Association3 and the American Heart Association4 encourage people with diabetes to consume a healthy dietary pattern that includes nutrient-rich foods.  A large egg provides 13 essential vitamins and minerals, 6 grams of protein (12% DV), as well as 250 mcg of antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, and these new data continue to support that eggs are a beneficial part of healthy dietary patterns.

For more information on other recent studies examining eggs and type 2 diabetes, be sure to read this research summary from ENC’s Nutrition Research Update.



  1. Noerman S et al. Metabolic Profiling of High Egg Consumption and the Associated Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in Middle-Aged Finnish Men. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2018 Dec 12. [Epub ahead of print]
  2. Virtanen JK, et al. Egg consumption and risk of incident type 2 diabetes in men: the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 May;101(5):1088-96.
  3. American Diabetes Association. Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes – 2017.  Diabetes Care. 2017;40 (supplement 1): S33-43.
  4. Fox CS, Golden SH, Anderson C, et al. Update on Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease in Adults With Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus in Light of Recent Evidence: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Care 2015;38:1777-1803.