Vitamin Enriched Eggs, an affordable tool to end hunger and improve human nutrition

Importance of eggs on Sustainability

Eggs are one of the ingredients which are highly nutritious and reasonably available food. A variety of eggs are displayed when you go to the supermarket. Among them, nutritionally enriched eggs can contribute to #3 Good Health and Well-being and #12 Responsible Consumption & Production in UN's Sustainable Development Goals.

Improving the nutritional value of eggs not only contributes to human well-being and a good lifestyle, but also contributes that eggs can offer real potential to improve maternal and child nutrition in developing countries, end hunger and achieve food security in a sustainable way.

Studies promoting egg consumption for women and children as part of wider dietary improvements show that child growth indicators are significantly improved in the intervention group compared to controls. Similarly, a recent breakthrough research study showed that all nine essential amino acids were significantly lower in stunted children compared with non-stunted children. This tells us that increased intake of quality protein from eggs can help to promote optimal development in children.

Also, birds benefit from improved vitamin nutrition. For instance, it is well known that vitamin D is necessary for proper bone development as well as eggshell formation by regulating calcium and phosphorus absorption. This leads to less broken eggs contributing to improve one of the most important global sustainability issues: reduce food Loss & waste which experts calculate as a third part of all food the world is producing today.

Egg Nutrition

Eggs contain 12 of the 13 vitamins except vitamin C, all being essential nutrients for both humans and birds. For example, let’s consider the immune system: it is the first barrier of defense against pathogens, both for animals and humans. Vitamins A, B6, B12, D, E and folate are all important in supporting an optimal functioning of the hen's immune system. Providing optimum nutrition to laying hens is essential not only in boosting and maintaining the immunity of the layer, but also in protecting nutritional value of the eggs for consumers. Eggs are considered to be one of "nature's first foods" with evidence mounting about the benefits of eggs for child nutrition and potential benefits for women during pregnancy and birth outcomes. The unique egg matrix of macronutrients, micronutrients, and immune factors, means eggs contain the majority of the essential nutrients required by the body, promoting growth, and potentially also helping child development. As quoted by Lutter et al: 'potential of a simple egg to improve maternal and child nutrition'.

By eating two eggs per day, approximately 40% Biotin, 30% vitamins A and B2, 20% vitamins D and E, and 15% folate can be obtained in the Recommended Daily Allowance. Studies on the relationship between vitamin level in layer feed and vitamin level in eggs have been reported since the 1990s. Since the vitamin level in eggs varies greatly depending on the health condition of chickens and the presence or absence of stress due to the feeding environment, it begins with feeding healthy hens in order to produce nutritionally enriched eggs, and obtaining nutritionally enriched eggs is also evidence that their eggs come from healthy hens. Vitamins are roughly divided into fat-soluble vitamins and water-soluble vitamins. The former is vitamin A, D, E, and K, and the latter is vitamin B1, B2, B6, and B12, niacin, folate, biotin, and pantothenic acid. In general, fat-soluble vitamins are said to be relatively easier to transfer to eggs. This is probably because water-soluble vitamins function as coenzymes in metabolic and maintenance functions of the body. DSMs provide guidelines for optimal vitamin balances that take into account the health, animal welfare, and productivity of optimum vitamin nutrition animals. Eggs produced from DSM's Optimum Vitamin Nutrition (OVN™) level vitamins in feed increased 150% vitamin D, 200% vitamin E, and 60% folic acid and biotin compared to and eggs produced in common layer feeds. Most vitamins accumulate in egg yolk, whereas some levels of vitamin B2, B12, niacin, and pantothenic acid also accumulate in egg white. Rarely, B1, B6, and folate can also be detected in the egg white but are mostly from the yolk.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A, which is important for visual function, maintenance of epithelial cells, tissue growth, and reproductive function, enriched eggs often contain 200% or more of vitamin A compared with regular eggs. Transfer rate falls into a high class of vitamins, with more than 50% accumulating in egg yolk. It does not accumulate in the egg white.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D function in the body plays numerous roles, and the content of vitamin D in egg yolk is often variable, but vitamin D enriched eggs tend to be approximately 400-500% higher than regular eggs. Vitamin D in eggs is classified into vitamin D3 and 25OHD3; and 25OHD3 is an active ingredient that has been gaining attention because it is also used as an index for measuring vitamin D levels in humans and animals, and it has been reported that its biological activity is five times that of vitamin D3. Approximately 500% more of the 25OHD3 supplement feed accumulates in egg yolk compared to regular eggs. Both vitamin D3 and 25OHD3 are accumulated only in egg yolk. The transfer rate to egg yolk is 10-30%.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E, which is known to be the most potent biological antioxidant, is a popular vitamin in  nutritionally enriched eggs. The amount of transfer to egg yolk varies greatly depending on how much of the antioxidant is required by the animal metabolism to maintain a good health status. OVN™ recommends increasing the dose of 5mg/kg diet for each 1% increase in fat level >3% in the diet. Vitamin E enriched eggs tend to contain 200-400% more than regular eggs. The transfer rate to egg yolk is 10-30%.

Vitamins K

Vitamin K3 is required for the conversion of proteins in the liver into biological forms such as prothrombin, osteocalcin, and blood coagulation. Shortage affects blood coagulopathy and increases the incidence of egg bloodspots. Since vitamin K3 is mainly functioning as a cofactor in the body, the transfer to eggs is also a low class among vitamins, and there are few cases of reinforced eggs worldwide because of the need for advanced analytical techniques.

B-complex vitamins

Vitamin B1 (thiamine) is mainly metabolized carbohydrates and acts as a coenzyme, and the transfer rate to eggs is less than 10%. OVN™ levels increased by 40-50% compared with regular eggs. Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) is a vitamin that is important not only for the function of coenzymes but also for mucosal barriers and reproductive functions and is accumulated in both egg yolk and egg white. Very high vitamin B2 level results in yellowish egg white. Vitamin B2 enriched eggs may contain around 20-30% more vitamin B2 than regular eggs. Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) is an essential vitamin for amino acid and fatty acid metabolism, and the vitamin B6 content in eggs does not increase much (10% or less) even when it is not so much required for body consumption or high inclusion level. Vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin), like other group B vitamins, has coenzymes and metabolic functions, but the transfer to eggs varies greatly depending on metabolic losses, making that vitamin B12 enriched  eggs can contain 40 to 180% more B12 than in regular eggs.

Niacin

Niacin is also required to act as a coenzyme in the body, resulting in an increase of 10-60% by OVN level supplementation. No Niacin enriched egg has been reported in the markets.

Folate

Folate is an essential vitamin for nervous system, DNA synthesis, immunity, and red blood cells, while it has received attention as a vitamin important for healthy growth of women and fetuses during pregnancy in recent years. For this reason, folate enriched eggs using eggs are available on the market in some countries. Enriched eggs are increased by 20-120% compared to the regular eggs.

Biotin

Biotin, which is involved in carbohydrate and protein metabolism, accumulates in the yolk of eggs, and although there are no reported cases as enriched eggs, 30-60% increase was observed in higher level and OVN level compared with regular eggs.

Pantothenic acid

Pantothenic acid is a vitamin that acts extensively in the body as a major component of coenzymes and is also known to suppress skin irritation. Regular eggs contain 1-1.5 mg (per 100g of edible eggs) and increase in the range of 10-80% in some cases.

Recommendations

While potential malnutrition is increasing in many countries, it may be beneficial to place more significance on the egg, which has been found to be a rich source of many essential vitamins and nutrients. In light of this, DSM is partnering with the International Egg Commission in order to increase the sustainability of the industry and share the knowledge, expertise and developments in egg nutrition globally. Improving nutrition is an important step in addressing micronutrient deficiencies and supporting optimal development and is a key factor in contributing to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To increase the nutrient content of eggs, producers can take steps at the feeding stage to ensure that the end consumer is getting the most from their eggs and they are playing their part in ending hunger and improving global nutrition.

Published on

09 March 2021

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Takehiko Hayakawa

Regional Manager Carotenoids, Asia Pacific, DSM

José-María Hernández

Global Marketing Manager Vitamins

About the authors

Takehiko Hayakawa

Regional Manager Carotenoids, Asia Pacific, DSM

Takehiko Hayakawa is a Regional Manager Carotenoids for Asia Pacific. He holds a PhD degree in Applied Life Science obtained from the Nippon Veterinary and Life Science University. Takehiko coordinated the illustrated egg handbook and was involved in the development project of 16 blades of the new DSM YolkFanTM and digital YolkFanTM.

José-María Hernández

Global Marketing Manager Vitamins

José-María Hernández is a Global Marketing Manager for Vitamins. He holds a BS in Veterinary with a specialty in Medicine and Animal Health as well as a Master degree in Marketing, Business and EXEC-MBA obtained from Universities and Business Schools in Spain and Argentina. José-María has more than 30 years of experience in the animal nutrition & health industry through different marketing and business positions at Local, Regional and Global level within DSM.

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