First stage of PhD study into egg benefits for the elderly presented

The first stage of a three-year programme of research into the potential for improving health in later life by increasing egg intake was presented  at the Nutrition Society Summer Meeting, held 6-9 July 2015.

The British Egg Industry Council is sponsoring the PhD project which is being conducted by Bournemouth University and began in October 2014. The study ‘Barriers, facilitators and strategies to increase egg intakes and protein status in older adults’ is being led by Dr Katherine Appleton, from the Department of Psychology at Bournemouth University. PhD student Emmy van den Heuvel delivered the initial findings at the prestigious annual Nutrition Society Summer Meeting at the University of Nottingham. 

Previous research that explored the factors associated with the consumption of protein-rich foods in older adults suggested difficulties based on the texture, perishability and need-to-cook nature of most high protein foods. However, compared to other protein-rich foods, eggs are easier to chew, have a long shelf-life, are relatively low cost, and are easy to cook and may be helpful to increase protein intake so the study aims to understand the specific opinions surrounding this particular food.

The first stage of the study assembled focus groups which comprised of men and women aged over 55 and investigated their eating habits and attempted to ascertain possible barriers, facilitators, concerns and perceived benefits to increasing intakes of eggs and other high protein foods. The next stage of the study will take a large representative sample and conduct a questionnaire among a wider population to establish patterns of egg consumption in older adults across the UK. This will be followed by an intervention study which will use the outcomes of the questionnaire study and aim to increase dietary protein intake and improve protein status in this target population.

Dr Appleton said: “This study is important because it helps understand how we can encourage consumption of high protein foods like eggs and in turn improve the health and quality of life of those over 55. As life expectancy increases it becomes ever more important to understand how to help ensure that those years can be enjoyed in good physical health.”