World Egg Day is an opportune time to celebrate the incredible nutritional value of eggs and their positive contribution to human health. Eggs have been a staple food in many cultures for centuries and for a good reason. They are a rich source of essential nutrients, including high-quality proteins, vitamins, carotenoids, minerals, and healthy fatty acids.
Eggs are renowned for their exceptional nutritional value, including 12 of the 13 essential vitamins, except vitamin C. The vitamins contained in eggs play a crucial role as essential nutrients for both humans and poultry.
A robust immune system is vital as the first line of defense against pathogens for both humans and poultry. In laying hens, vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E, and folate are particularly significant in supporting optimal immune system functioning. Providing these hens with optimum nutrition is key not only for bolstering and maintaining their immunity but also for preserving the nutritional value of the eggs. Often referred to as "nature's first food," eggs are backed by mounting evidence highlighting their nutritional benefits for children and women during pregnancy and childbirth. The unique composition of eggs, with their rich matrix of macronutrients, micronutrients, and immune factors, ensures they contain most of the essential nutrients required by the body, promoting growth, and potentially aiding in child development. As quoted by Lutter et al., the potential of a simple egg to improve maternal and child nutrition is significant.
By consuming two eggs daily, individuals can obtain approximately 40% of the Recommended Daily Allowance of biotin, 30% of vitamins A and B2, 20% of vitamins D and E, and 15% of folate. The relationship between vitamin levels in layer feed and those in eggs has been the subject of studies since the 1990s. The vitamin content in eggs can vary greatly depending on the health condition of the chickens and the presence or absence of stress related to their feeding environment, on top of vitamin levels and the quality of vitamins in the diet. Thus, ensuring the health of hens through proper nutrition is essential for producing nutritionally enriched eggs, thereby providing evidence that these eggs come from only healthy hens.
Vitamins can be broadly classified into fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) and water-soluble vitamins (B1, B2, B6, and B12, niacin, folate, biotin, and pantothenic acid). Generally, fat-soluble vitamins are more readily transferred to eggs, as water-soluble vitamins tend to function as coenzymes in the metabolic and maintenance processes of the body.
dsm-firmenich offers guidelines for optimal vitamin balances, taking into account the health, animal welfare, and productivity of animals. Additionally, eggs produced following Optimum Vitamin Nutrition (OVN™) level vitamins in feed exhibit notably increased levels of vitamin D (150%), vitamin E (200%), folic acid, and biotin (60%) compared to eggs from common layer feeds. Most vitamins accumulate in the egg yolk, although some levels of vitamin B2, B12, niacin, and pantothenic acid can also be found in the egg white.
In conclusion, eggs serve as a nutrient powerhouse, offering a range of essential vitamins that contribute significantly to overall health and well-being. Ensuring proper nutrition for laying hens translates to nutritionally enriched eggs, promoting both the health of consumers and the sustainability of egg production.
One of the most remarkable attributes of eggs is their protein content and quality. They are considered a complete protein source, meaning they contain all nine essential amino acids required by the human body. A single large egg typically provides around 6 grams of protein, making them an excellent dietary choice for promoting muscle growth, repair, and overall body maintenance. Protein coming from cooked eggs are practically 100% digestible. Care should be taken when eating raw eggs because the protein digestibility will be below 50%.
Eggs are a rich source of various vitamins, including:
Vitamin A is vital for growth, immunity, reproduction, vision, skin health, and mucosal integrity; its deficiency leads to disorders such as blindness, poor growth, weakened immunity, and epithelial tissue issues. Vitamin A enriched eggs often contain 200% or more of vitamin A compared with regular eggs. The 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 plays a fundamental role in maintaining calcium and phosphorus balance within the body, influencing intestinal absorption, bone health, kidney function, immune system modulation, and muscular cell growth. Similarly, its metabolite 25OHD3, a major serum form, demonstrates more efficient absorption, quicker response for calcium homeostasis, and enhanced effects on immune system modulation and muscular cells, making it crucial for these functions. Both vitamin D3 and 25OHD3 deficiencies can lead to disorders such as rickets, osteomalacia, bone issues, compromised eggshell quality, reduced hatchability, slowed growth, and muscular weakness.
And the content of vitamin D in egg yolk is often variable but dependent on feed levels of the vitamin. 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, known as the most potent biological antioxidant, is a popular vitamin in nutritionally enriched eggs. It serves in immune system modulation, tissue protection, and fertility; deficiency can lead to disorders like muscular dystrophy, myopathy, reduced immune response, encephalomalacia, impaired fertility and hatchability, as well as meat quality defects in poultry. The amount of transfer to egg yolk varies greatly depending on how much of the antioxidant is required by the animal metabolism to maintain good health. 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%.
Vitamin K3 serves as a pivotal coenzyme for blood clotting, coagulation, bone mineralization via calcium binding proteins, and protein synthesis. Deficiency results in prolonged clotting time, hemorrhages, anemia, bone disorders, compromised plumage quality, and increases the incidence of egg bloodspots in laying hens. Since vitamin K3 mainly functions 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.
Vitamin B group:
The B-vitamins are a group of water-soluble vitamins that play various essential roles in metabolism, energy production, and overall well-being. The B-group vitamins found in eggs include:
These B-vitamins work synergistically to support a range of bodily functions, including energy production, nervous system health, and the metabolism of macronutrients.
Carotenoids are naturally occurring compounds, of which about 800 species have been identified, and in recent years, it has become one of the nutrients with high antioxidant properties and is applied to food supplements and cosmetics, etc. And various studies have shown that carotenoids such as canthaxanthin are essential for poultry. For layers, high carotenoid intake improves egg yolk color, and dsm-firmenich provides the dsm-firmenich YolkFan™ which evaluates egg yolk color by the number 1 to 16 blades according to the shade of color for Carophyll product users. Carotenoids affect yolk color, but also contribute to fertility, hatchability, and chick quality in poultry breeders, making egg yolk not only a color but also a barometer of nutrients and hen health. So, for that reason, we can say a golden yolk is always coming from a healthy hen.
Eggs are also packed with essential minerals, including Selenium, Phosphorus, Iron and Magnesium. They are important for bone health, oxygen transport, immunity and different metabolic functions.
Contrary to past misconceptions, research now suggests that moderate egg consumption can have a neutral or even beneficial effect on cardiovascular health. The high-quality proteins and healthy fats in eggs help maintain healthy cholesterol levels and may reduce the risk of heart disease. Additionally, the presence of choline in eggs has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease.
Eggs are an abundant source of choline and DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid), a nutrient that plays a crucial role in cognitive function and memory. These nutrients are especially important during pregnancy, as they contribute to the brain development of the fetus. Consuming eggs regularly can support brain health throughout all stages of life.
Eggs are rich in antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin, which are essential for maintaining eye health. These compounds have been associated with a reduced risk of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts, two common eye conditions that can lead to vision impairment.
Including eggs in a balanced diet may aid in weight management due to their high satiety value. Eating eggs can help control hunger, reduce overall calorie intake, and promote feelings of fullness, thus contributing to weight loss or weight maintenance goals.
The complete protein profile in eggs, along with essential amino acids, makes them an excellent food for muscle health. Whether consumed by athletes for muscle recovery or by older adults to prevent age-related muscle loss, eggs can play a vital role in supporting muscle strength and function.
The vitamins and minerals present in eggs, particularly vitamin A, vitamin D, and zinc, are essential for a robust immune system. Adequate consumption of eggs can help the body defend against infections and maintain overall immune function.
While eggs offer numerous health benefits, it is essential to consider the appropriate amount of egg consumption. The dietary guidelines vary depending on individual factors such as age, health status, and activity level. In general, most healthy individuals can safely consume up to 3-4 eggs per day as part of a balanced diet. However, those with specific health conditions or concerns about cholesterol levels should consult their healthcare professionals for personalized advice.
Improving the nutritional value of eggs not only contributes to human well-being and a good lifestyle but also means that eggs can offer real potential to enhance 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. Also, since chickens can benefit from improved nutrition, it leads to improved egg qualities and contributes to Food loss & Waste reductions. Vitamin D is necessary for eggshell formation as well as bone development by assisting absorption of calcium. It leads to a reduction of Food (egg) loss & waste and by reducing egg breakage.
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-firmenich is partnering with the International Egg Commission, an organization dedicated to the sharing of 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. Eggs are truly a nutritional powerhouse, providing an abundance of essential nutrients that contribute positively to human health. Their role in supporting cardiovascular health, brain function, eye health, weight management, muscle health, and immune support cannot be overstated. As we celebrate World Egg Day, let us recognize and appreciate the many benefits that eggs bring to our tables and, ultimately, to our well-being. Remember, incorporating eggs into a balanced diet can be an “egg-cellent” choice for a healthier and happier life.
09 October 2023
Takehiko Hayakawa is a Technical Marketing Manager, 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-firmenich YolkFan™ and digital YolkFan™.
José-María is a Spanish national holding a Degree in Veterinary Medicine and Masters in Exec-MBA and Marketing and Commercial Management.
Close to 35 years in the feed industry, he joined Roche-dsm-firmenich in 1989 and had different technical, commercial, and marketing positions in EMEA and Global (Poultry) Business and Category (Vitamins, Carotenoids) management in Spain, Switzerland as well as GM in Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.
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