Eggs Across The Lifespan

Eggs contain a number of nutrients that are essential throughout the lifespan:

  • High-quality protein contains building blocks needed to support healthy bones and muscles. Research suggests that exercise, along with optimal protein intake, can slow the effects of sarcopenia or chronic age-related muscle loss.
  • Choline is essential for normal liver function and brain health. It is especially important during pregnancy to support normal fetal growth and development, and most pregnant women do not consume adequate amounts of choline. Consuming eggs during pregnancy is one solution to choline consumption issues.
  • Lutein and zeaxanthin are antioxidants that are believed to reduce the risk of developing cataracts and slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration, a disease that develops with age.

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Higher Egg Consumption Protective of Diabetes Incidence in Middle Age Men


Higher egg intake was associated with reduced incidence of type 2 diabetes (T2D) in Finnish men studied for 20 years.

New results were just published from the Kuopio heart study in eastern Finland (Virtanen, 2015). In this prospective cohort study, over 2,000 men between the ages of 42-60 years were randomly selected to participate in a long-term study of diet and cardiovascular disease. Dietary intake was recorded via 4-day food records at the study start and then subjects were examined at designed time points over 20 years of follow up.

The research authors introduced their interest is examining relationships between eggs and health outcomes by noting that:

“Eggs are a common, affordable, and readily available food item worldwide and, in addition to cholesterol, also a good source of many potentially beneficial nutrients…” Furthermore, “[t]he evidence on the impact of egg consumption on the risk of T2D is limited and mixed…”

Men were divided into quartiles based on average daily egg intake. Results were adjusted for potential confounding factors, including age, examination year, and energy intake.

There was a significant trend across quartiles of egg consumption, with the lowest risk of T2D in men reporting an average of 35 g/d of egg, which equate to little more than half of a medium egg compared to those consuming less than 1 egg/week. There was no further suppression of risk in those consuming higher daily egg intake.

Stated another way,

“[e]ach egg per day (55 g) was associated with a 30% lower risk.”

The longitudinal and long-term nature of this study over 20-years is a particular strength.

The researchers concluded that,

“[r]ecommendations to limit consumption of eggs (or any food) in a general healthy population should not be based on a single component in a food, such as the cholesterol in egg.”


Reference Citation

Virtanen, JK, J Mursu, TP Tuomainen, HEK Virtanen, and S Voutilainen. “Egg consumption and risk of incident type 2 diabetes in men: the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study” Am J Clin Nutr 2015. Available on-line doi: 10.3945/ajcn.114.104109.


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Recorded Webinars and Other Videos

ENC-Funded Research Presented at the Experimental Biology Meeting in March 2015

Egg Nutrition Center is the science division of The American Egg Board headquartered in Park Ridge, Illinois. This 2-minute highlight video and the eight videos below this one reflect some of the ENC-funded research that was presented at the Experimental Biology meeting in March 2015.

Continue reading “Recorded Webinars and Other Videos”

The Rome Declaration Aims to Eradicate Malnutrition

Two weeks ago, I attended the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) in Rome. The conference, which was jointly sponsored by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO), culminated in the acceptance of the Rome Declaration by most of the countries in the world. The Rome Declaration is designed as a blue print for countries to help eradicate malnutrition (both undernutrition and overweight/obesity) worldwide. A lofty goal, to say the least, but one to which all health professionals, as well as governments, should be paying attention.

Health ministers from many countries, as well as dignitaries including the Pope, spoke at the conference, lending gravitas to the proceedings. As a representative of the egg industry, I was proud to be a part of the rather large livestock/agriculture contingent in attendance. In private discussions, I spoke about the research that the American Egg Board is currently supporting to feed high-quality protein to orphaned children in Third World countries and the success we have had in pilot studies enhancing the growth rate, as well as markers of cognitive performance, in children who generally receive very little protein as a part of their normal diets. These are the sorts of efforts that, as folks attending the Conference agreed, can go a long way in eradicating hunger and malnutrition around the world.

If you’re not familiar with the ICN2 conference or the Rome Declaration I’d encourage you to view the Rome Declaration document at As health professionals, this certainly seems like an effort and an agenda to get behind in any way possible. The impact that this document ultimately has on issues related to world hunger and malnutrition remains to be seen, but the impact that health professionals can have in their local communities and beyond certainly seems more attainable. If nothing else, it is both interesting and beneficial to learn more about the goals and outputs of the ICN2 conference.

Choline, B-vitamins and Neural Tube Defects

lab-scientist-stock-photoToday’s post has been authored by Julia Bird, MPH, Associate Scientist, Nutrition Science and Advocacy, at DSM Nutritional Products. The post was originally posted on Monday Aug 18, 2014 on


While the nutrient choline is not considered a vitamin in the strictest sense, as it can be synthesized by the body in limited amounts, it has nonetheless garnered research interest as it participates in the same group of biochemical reactions as B-vitamins such as folate and vitamin B12. In particular, as Zeisel explains, it may be especially important for expecting mothers and their infants. Choline is required for normal fetal development and the proper functioning of the liver and placenta. Additionally, there appears to be a strong biological need for choline in the developing fetus and infant, as large quantities are transferred via the placenta during pregnancy, and breast milk has a high choline concentration. Some researchers, such as Shaw and colleagues, have found low intakes of choline around the peri-conceptual period are linked with neural tube defects. The recent publication from Mills and co-workers looks at the relationship between choline status, genetic polymorphisms and neural tube defects (NTD).

The researchers looked at data from two separate groups of Irish women in case-control studies: in one group were 71 women carrying a child affected by an NTD and 214 pregnant women serving as controls, and in the other were 98 women who had previously carried a pregnancy affected by NTD and 386 control women. Concentrations of choline and related metabolites betaine and homocysteine were compared between the cases and controls. In addition, the effects that common genetic variants that affect choline and B-vitamin levels have on risk of NTD were examined.

The researchers did not find any statistically significant difference in choline levels between women who had had an NTD diagnosis, and those with no history of NTD and carrying an unaffected fetus. There also did not appear to be an effect whereby women with low folate levels and low choline levels were at greater risk of an NTD-affected pregnancy. Levels of homocysteine, which increase in response to B-vitamin deficiency, were however increased in women affected by NTD pregnancy.

When looking at genetic polymorphisms, one variant of the phosphatidylethanolamine N-methyltransferase (PEMT) gene was found at higher levels in women with a (history of) pregnancy affected by NTD. The enzyme that is produced by this gene is responsible for synthesis of choline in the body, and it is possible that small variations may affect choline status.

Although this study did not show an effect of choline levels on risk of NTDs, as yet there is no functional marker of choline deficiency. The population studied was well-nourished. Lower levels do not indicate that body systems that rely on choline are malfunctioning as long as intakes meet a certain minimum level to sustain health. The study confirms that elevated homocysteine levels, and certain genes that control these levels, are related to risk of NTD, as discussed previously by van der Put and colleagues.

Given that pregnant and lactating women have a higher requirement for choline, it seems prudent for this risk group to ensure an adequate supply. Aside from NTDs, choline may be important in other areas of infant health, as summarized by Jiang, West and Caudill. The USDA choline databaseprovides a very comprehensive list of the choline content in many foods. Women planning a family, pregnant and lactating women should make sure that their choline intakes meet minimum recommendations.

– Julia Bird, MPH

Main citation:

James L Mills, Ruzong Fan, Lawrence C Brody, Aiyi Liu, Per M Ueland, Yifan Wang, Peadar N Kirke, Barry Shane, and Anne M Molloy. Maternal choline concentrations during pregnancy and choline-related genetic variants as risk factors for neural tube defects. Am J Clin Nutr 2014 ajcn.079319; First published online August 13, 2014. doi:10.3945/ajcn.113.079319

Supporting citations:

Jiang X, West AA, Caudill MA. Maternal choline supplementation: a nutritional approach for improving offspring health? Trends Endocrinol Metab. 2014 May;25(5):263-73. doi: 10.1016/j.tem.2014.02.001. Epub 2014 Mar 26.

Pangilinan F, Molloy AM, Mills JL, Troendle JF, Parle-McDermott A, Signore C, O’Leary VB, Chines P, Seay JM, Geiler-Samerotte K, Mitchell A, VanderMeer JE, Krebs KM, Sanchez A, Cornman-Homonoff J, Stone N, Conley M, Kirke PN, Shane B, Scott JM, Brody LC. Evaluation of common genetic variants in 82 candidate genes as risk factors for neural tube defects. BMC Med Genet. 2012 Aug 2;13:62.

Shaw GM, Carmichael SL, Yang W, Selvin S, Schaffer DM. Periconceptional dietary intake of choline and betaine and neural tube defects in offspring. Am J Epidemiol. 2004 Jul 15;160(2):102-9.

van der Put NM, van Straaten HW, Trijbels FJ, Blom HJ. Folate, homocysteine and neural tube defects: an overview. Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2001 Apr;226(4):243-70.

Zeisel SH. Nutrition in pregnancy: the argument for including a source of choline. Int J Womens Health. 2013 Apr 22;5:193-9. doi: 10.2147/IJWH.S36610.