It seems that many of us in the UK could be! According to the British Egg Information Service there has been a rise in egg sales of around 5% this year and, over Easter, sales rocketed to their highest levels for more than 20 years.

So what is responsible for the rising popularity of eggs? Is it that they are a cheaper alternative to meat given the current economic climate? Was there a sudden trend for decorating eggs at Easter? Or could it be new studies highlighting the health benefits of eating eggs, widely reported by the media in recent weeks?

Of particular note is a literature review soon to be published in the Journal Nutrition & Food Science1. Researchers analysed published literature on egg nutritional composition and the role of eggs in the diet. They note that eggs are a rich source of protein and several essential nutrients, particularly vitamin B12, selenium, choline and vitamin D. [As I noted in a previous blog, many people in the UK are vitamin D-deficient.] Furthermore, they say emerging evidence suggests that eating eggs is associated with satiety, weight management and better diet quality. In addition, antioxidants found in egg yolk may help prevent age-related macular degeneration (an eye condition that results in loss of vision). Lead author of the report, Dr Carrie Ruxton (an independent dietitian), has reportedly said that 'the health benefits of eggs would appear to be so great that it's perhaps no exaggeration to call them a superfood.'

The idea that eating eggs can help weight loss was recently supported by a U.S. study published in Nutrition Research. Researchers found that men who consumed an egg-based breakfast ate significantly fewer calories when offered an unlimited lunch buffet compared to when they ate a carbohydrate-rich bagel breakfast of equal calories.2 This study backs up previous research which revealed that eating eggs for breakfast as part of a reduced-calorie diet helped overweight dieters lose 65 percent more weight and feel more energetic than dieters who ate a bagel breakfast of equal calories and volume.3

Earlier this year, the importance of choline (an essential nutrient present in eggs) for fetal brain development was highlighted4. This generated headlines such as 'an excuse for pregnant women to eat bacon and eggs' [meat is also a good source of choline].

All this 'good PR' for eggs follows the removal of the previous limits on egg consumption, which were due to worries over cholesterol content and a link with coronary heart disease. Researchers now believe that the suggested adverse relationship between dietary cholesterol and heart disease risk was likely largely over-exaggerated, and that egg consumption is not deleterious to the vast majority of people5.

Among the thousands of records mentioning eggs on our Nutrition and Food Sciences database, there are many interesting articles on the development of the egg as a functional food, e.g. enriched with omega-3, vitamin E, lutein and selenium6,7. These 'designer eggs' have even more nutritional benefits.

Eggs for breakfast tomorrow?

1. The nutritional properties and health benefits of eggs. Ruxton, C. H.; Derbyshire, E.; Gibson, S. Nutrition and Food Science, 2010, vol. 40, no.3
2. Consuming eggs for breakfast influences plasma glucose and ghrelin, while reducing energy intake during the next 24 hours in adult men. Ratliff, J.; Leite, J.O.; de Ogburn, R.; Puglisi, M.J.; VanHeest, J.; Fernandez, M.L. Nutrition Research, 2010, 30, 96-103.
3. Egg breakfast enhances weight loss. Vander Wal, J.S.; Gupta, A.; Khosla, P.; Dhurandhar. International Journal of Obesity, 2008, 32, 1545-1551.
4. Choline deficiency alters global histone methylation and epigenetic marking at the Re1 site of the calbindin 1 gene. Mihai G. Mehedint; Mihai D. Niculescu; Corneliu N. Craciunescu; Steven H. Zeisel. FASEB Journal 2010 24: 184-195.
5. Dietary cholesterol and the risk of cardiovascular disease in patients: a review of the Harvard Egg Study and other data. Jones, P. J. H. International Journal of Clinical Practice 2009 Vol. 63 No. s163 pp. 1-8, 37-43
6. Simultaneous enrichment of eggs with PUFAs and antioxidants: prospects and limitations. Surai, P. F.; Papazyan, T. T.; Sparks, N. H. C.; Speake, B. K. Wild-type food in health promotion and disease prevention: the Columbus Concept 2008 pp. 139-153
7. The move toward seleno-eggs: making nature's 'perfect food' even better. Surai, P. F. Nutritional biotechnology in the feed and food industries: Proceedings of Alltech's 22nd Annual Symposium, Lexington, Kentucky, USA, 23-26 April 2006, pp. 181-188 [CAB Full Text]

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