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Egg consumption linked to healthier diet and lower weight in women

17/09/2020

With retail egg sales rising by around 30% during lockdown, a new paper shows that women who eat eggs have higher levels of nutrients such as Vitamin D and selenium in their blood and are on average slimmer than non-egg eaters.

The new analysis of the most recent UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS), which provides evidence for Government on the diet and nutrition of UK consumers, has found that women who eat eggs have better quality diets and better nutritional status than those who don’t.   

And despite higher calorie intakes, researchers found that women who consumed eggs tended to be slimmer than non-consumers, having a lower BMI and waist-to-height ratio, indicators of a healthy weight.   

The report also highlights the potential positive health and environmental benefits of replacing some meat consumption with eggs.

Sigrid Gibson, registered nutritionist and lead author of the paper Evaluating current egg consumption patterns: associations with diet quality, nutrition and health status in the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey, published in the British Nutrition Foundation’s peer reviewed journal Nutrition Bulletin on 17 September, commented: “This is the first UK study to report significant beneficial differences in women’s nutritional status and body weight associated with consuming eggs in the context of a higher quality diet.

“It confirms that eating eggs is associated with a healthier dietary pattern for women in the UK, in contrast to their previous association with an unhealthy diet.”

The paper reports that female egg consumers ate more fruit, vegetables and fish and had significantly higher dietary intakes of protein, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids and most micronutrients, including vitamin D, most B vitamins, vitamin C, iron, zinc and selenium, compared with non-consumers. They also had higher levels of vitamin D, carotenoids, selenium and ferritin in their blood and were less likely to be anaemic. 

“Given that eggs are a good source of vitamin D and selenium, it is likely that the observed enhanced nutritional status of these micronutrients among egg consumers is at least partly attributable to eggs,” comments Sigrid Gibson. 

Both vitamin D, which is important for bone health and muscle function, and selenium, which contributes to normal immune and thyroid function and helps protect cells from oxidative damage, are nutrients of concern in the UK.  Suboptimal status of both nutrients is reported to be widespread throughout Europe. However, diet alone cannot provide enough vitamin D and PHE advice is to consume a vitamin D supplement, especially for people who don't get much sun exposure.

The research found fewer significant differences in the diet of male egg consumers compared to non-consumers of eggs, although they did have higher intakes of vitamin D and selenium.  There were no significant differences in blood cholesterol or other cardiometabolic risk factors for either sex. 

Andrew Joret, Chairman of the British Egg Industry Council, commented: “This important new research confirms that UK egg consumers are moving away from the traditional ‘fry up’ with which eggs were historically associated.

“Sales of eggs increased by 50% between 2008 and 2019, following the removal of ‘limits’ on consumption, due to earlier concerns about their cholesterol content, and improved food safety standards.

“The increase in egg consumption is being driven by younger people eating eggs as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle and this research confirms that this appears to be resulting in overall health benefits for women who eat eggs as part of a healthier diet.”

Benefits of eggs in reducing meat consumption

The authors note the potential benefits of eggs for people eating less meat, commenting that eggs contain a package of nutrients including various minerals, vitamins and fatty acids that may be lacking in diets low in animal products.  

Among women with below-average consumption of red and processed meat, those who consumed eggs had diets providing higher intakes of a number of key nutrients, including riboflavin, vitamin B12, folate, vitamin C, iron, zinc and selenium, compared with low meat consumers who did not eat eggs.   

 “Changing patterns of consumption may have implications for the role of eggs in the diet, specifically in providing high quality protein and key micronutrients such as vitamin D, vitamin B12, selenium, iodine and iron that may be in short supply for some groups, such as young women and some vegetarians,” comments Sigrid Gibson.

In addition, eggs have a lower carbon footprint than meat and the paper suggests that replacing meat with eggs just once a week could be a “win-win diet”, with environmental and health benefits.  

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For further information please contact the British Egg Information Service on 020 7052 8899