Eggs and Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes develops when your pancreas produces insulin but your cells become insensitive to it – a condition called insulin resistance. Insulin is the hormone which helps our cells absorb glucose (sugar) from the blood to make energy. Without it, blood sugar levels rise and cells don’t have enough energy to function. Diabetes can lead to heart disease, nerve damage, kidney failure and blindness.

Type 2 diabetes usually develops in adulthood and unhealthy diets and lifestyles are a major risk factor. Obese people are at a higher risk but it’s not a rule, even a slim person can become diabetic.

With insulin resistance, your body still produces insulin but the cells don’t react to it so all the sugar that gets into your blood after you’ve eaten cannot enter your cells. This causes high blood sugar levels which can damage blood vessels and even nerves, leading to further health issues.

Despite the widespread myth, eating sugar is not a cause of diabetes (although it is not healthy), the main problem lies elsewhere. Diets high in meat, saturated fat and processed foods (Western style diets) cause the accumulation of tiny droplets of fat in your muscle and liver cells. When there’s too many of these droplets, they interfere with the cell’s metabolism so it stops being able to react to insulin correctly, causing insulin resistance (Sparks et al., 2005; Morino et al., 2006; Consitt et al., 2009; Wali et al., 2020). Animal products, including eggs are major sources of unhealthy fats in the Western diets.

The egg effect

A large study revealed that people who ate an egg a day had double the risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to people who had less than one egg a week (Spence et al., 2010).

Another study of 57,000 US adults who ate eggs daily found they were 58-77 per cent more likely to develop diabetes type 2 than those who didn’t eat eggs (Djoussé et al., 2009). And an even bigger study by the same team revealed that the risk of type 2 diabetes starts increasing from eating two eggs a week (Djoussé et al., 2021).

Other studies also show that egg consumption increases the risk of type 2 diabetes (Lee et al., 2014; Mazidi et al. 2019). According to researchers, eating eggs and their cholesterol in particular affects blood sugar metabolism and increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes (Lee et al., 2014). Cholesterol both inhibits the production of insulin and can lower the body’s sensitivity to it.

On the other hand, plant-based diets greatly reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. This is because plant wholefoods naturally contain less fat, and saturated fat in particular, than animal products, they contain a lot more fibre helping to regulate blood sugar, many beneficial phytochemicals and complex carbohydrates – put simply, they make your body work better and lower your risk of diabetes (Chen et al., 2018). It may sound too good to be true but the evidence is now so strong that many healthcare professionals recommend a plant-based diet as a part of the disease treatment.

Vegans have up to 50 per cent lower risk of type 2 diabetes (Appleby and Key, 2016; Salas-Salvadó et al., 2019). And even if you already have the disease, there’s good news – a healthy vegan, diet low in fat and high in wholefoods, can help reverse it (Barnard et al., 2009; Kahleova et al., 2011; McMacken and Shah, 2017). In several studies, many patients were able to reduce their diabetes medication and some were able to discontinue it because they were no longer diabetic!

For more information on diabetes and diet, visit our dedicated Diabetes pages.



Appleby PN, Key TJ. 2016. The Long-Term Health of Vegetarians and Vegans. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 75 (3) 287-293.

Barnard ND, Cohen J, Jenkins DJ et al. 2009. A low-fat vegan diet and conventional diabetes diet in the treatment of type 2 diabetes: a randomized, controlled, 74-wk clinical trial. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 89 (5) 1588S-1596S.

Chen Z, Zuurmond MG, van der Schaft N et al. 2018. Plant versus animal based diets and insulin resistance, prediabetes and type 2 diabetes: the Rotterdam Study. European Journal of Epidemiology. 33(9):883-893.

Consitt LA, Bell JA, Houmard JA. 2009. Intramuscular lipid metabolism, insulin action, and obesity. IUBMB Life. 61 (1) 47-55.

Djoussé L, Gaziano JM, Buring JE and Lee IM. 2009. Egg consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes in men and women. Diabetes Care. 32 (2) 295-300.

Djoussé L, Zhou G, McClelland RL et al. 2021. Egg consumption, overall diet quality, and risk of type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease: A pooling project of US prospective cohorts. Clinical Nutrition. 40 (5) 2475-2482.

Feskens EJ, Sluik D and van Woudenbergh GJ. 2013. Meat consumption, diabetes, and its complications. Current Diabetes Reports. 13 (2) 298-306.

Kahleova H, Matoulek M, Malinska H et al. 2011. Vegetarian diet improves insulin resistance and oxidative stress markers more than conventional diet in subjects with Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Medicine. 28 (5) 549‐559.

Lee CT, Liese AD, Lorenzo C et al. 2014. Egg consumption and insulin metabolism in the Insulin Resistance Atherosclerosis Study (IRAS). Public Health Nutrition. 17 (7) 1595-1602.

Mazidi M, Katsiki N, Mikhailidis DP et al. 2019. Egg Consumption and Risk of Total and Cause-Specific Mortality: An Individual-Based Cohort Study and Pooling Prospective Studies on Behalf of the Lipid and Blood Pressure Meta-analysis Collaboration (LBPMC) Group. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 38 (6) 552-563.

McMacken M, Shah S. 2017. A plant-based diet for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes. Journal of Geriatric Cardiology. 14 (5): 342–354.

Morino K, Petersen KF, Shulman GI. 2006. Molecular mechanisms of insulin resistance in humans and their potential links with mitochondrial dysfunction. Diabetes. 55 (Suppl. 2) S9-S15.

Salas-Salvadó J, Becerra-Tomás N, Papandreou C, Bulló M. 2019. Dietary Patterns Emphasizing the Consumption of Plant Foods in the Management of Type 2 Diabetes: A Narrative Review. Advances in Nutrition. 10 (Suppl_4) S320\S331.

Sparks LM, Xie H, Koza RA et al. 2005. A high-fat diet coordinately downregulates genes required for mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation in skeletal muscle. Diabetes. 54 (7) 1926-33.

Spence JD, Jenkins DJ and Davignon J. 2010. Dietary cholesterol and egg yolks: not for patients at risk of vascular disease. Canadian Journal of Cardiology. 26 (9) e336-339.

Wali JA, Jarzebska N, Raubenheimer D et al. 2020. Cardio-Metabolic Effects of High-Fat Diets and Their Underlying Mechanisms-A Narrative Review. Nutrients. 12 (5) 1505.

How to change your diet

Ditching eggs is not just a healthy choice, it’s also an ethical and sustainable one. If you’re used to meals based around eggs, meat and dairy, the idea of a plant-based diet may be daunting but we’re here to help make it super easy!

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All about eggs

Find all the above and more in Viva!’s resources on eggs and egg farming:

An eye-opening guide about the health impacts of egg consumption, egg-laying hens and Viva! investigations – Cracked.

A factsheet summarising all you need to know about eggs and your health.

A handy chart showing you how to replace eggs in cooking and baking.

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