Egg and Egg-Derived Foods: Effects on Human Health and Use as Functional Foods

Abstract: Eggs are sources of protein, fats and micronutrients that play an important role in basic nutrition. However, eggs are traditionally associated with adverse factors in human health, mainly due to their cholesterol content. Nowadays, however, it is known that the response of cholesterol in human serum levels to dietary cholesterol consumption depends on several factors, such as ethnicity, genetic makeup, hormonal factors and the nutritional status of the consumer. Additionally, in recent decades, there has been an increasing demand for functional foods, which is expected to continue to increase in the future, owing to their capacity to decrease the risks of some diseases and socio-demographic factors such as the increase in life expectancy. This work offers a brief overview of the advantages and disadvantages of egg consumption and the potential market of functional eggs, and it explores the possibilities of the development of functional eggs by technological methods.

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Alex’s Notes: Food is no longer just food, as many authorities now recognize Hippocrates ancient wisdom and are beginning to market foods as medicine… almost. The demand for healthier foods has led to the creation of “functional” foods that are seen as solutions to certain health goals. For better or worse, this has evolved into changing the composition of foods to include ingredients not otherwise present or to modify the quantity of nutrients already within the food. But for many people, change is scary and food is comfort, which is one reason why functional foods have evolved from recommending certain foods towards modifying what people are already eating.

In light of this, eggs are a great candidate for promotion. They already account for ~1.3% of consumed calories in the average American, so it would be a matter of increasing intake rather than starting it. Additionally, they contain protein of eggscellent quality, have great culinary versatility, have a low economic cost, may play particularly useful roles in the diets of the elderly, pregnant women, and children, and have no religious restrictions around the world.

The Sunny-side up

Eggs provide 18 vitamins and minerals, 12g (for a large egg) of protein and fat, of which half is monounsaturated (the same stuff in olive oil), and provide a handful of antioxidants. They have even been reported to contain antimicrobial, immunomodulator, antioxidant, anti-cancer, and anti-hypertensive properties. Probably most importantly, eggs are loaded with lecithin and are one of few foods rich in choline.

The yolks in particular are a wealth of nutrition. About 7% of egg yolk protein is phosvitin, which acts as an important melanogenesis inhibitor to control excessive melanin synthesis in our skin. This may be especially valuable to people who suffer from hyper-pigmentation, such as those with Addison’s disease. They also contain carotenoids such as lutein, zeaxanthin, and of course β-carotene, all of which require fat to be utilized properly.

Turning to the whites, this often underappreciated component is the main protein source in eggs, containing about 1.3g of leucine per 15g of protein. Not to mention that egg white protein has been the gold standard for comparison in testing the biological value of protein in foods.

There’s always a but…

Despite all these advantages, egg consumption has been stifled by government recommendations against cholesterol and its role in heart disease. And this is despite the fact that recent evidence suggests that dietary cholesterol in general and cholesterol in eggs in particular have limited effects on the blood cholesterol level and on cardiovascular disease (CVD). Then there is the avidin glycoprotein content of raw egg white that irreversibly binds biotin, but that can be destroyed with cooking. Salmonella is another concern, one that can also be minimized with cooking or higher quality egg selection.

So what are the recommendations?

Believe it or not, most of the world doesn’t hate on eggs. They either have no restrictions or encourage consumption. Mexico is the highest consumer, reaching an average of 355 eggs per person per year, followed by China and Japan.Factors of modern life, such as travel, busy schedules, and little time to cook and/or eat at home play an important role in the increased consumption of pre-packaged and processed foods. There is a large potential here for eggs, as they are easily portable and quick to eat.

Eggs, anyone?


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