Independent researchers find nutritional improvements in eggs

19th July 2012

British eggs contain double the selenium of 30 years ago, according to a new study led by the Institute of Food Research’s Food Databanks National Capability.

They also contain 75% more vitamin D, 20% less fat and more than 10% less cholesterol compared with data from previous surveys.

“Eggs are a valuable component of a healthy diet,” said Paul Finglas, head of the Food Databanks National Capability based on Norwich Research Park.

“Our new data shows that their composition is in line with changes in egg production and these changes could have positive health benefits.”

“The UK has one of the lowest intakes of selenium in the world,” said Professor Sue Fairweather-Tait from the University of East Anglia.

“Dietary selenium intakes have approximately halved since the mid-70’s, partly because of reduced imports of high-selenium wheat from North America,” she said.

Selenium is essential for a wide range of biochemical functions within the body and deficiency in the mineral is related to a number of health disorders.

Some studies suggest that low selenium intake is associated with an increased risk of certain chronic diseases, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease and other health outcomes, such as infertility and infection.

The increased selenium content found in eggs means that eggs can make a significant contribution to selenium intake.

The research, funded by the Department of Health, was led by IFR researchers behind Europe’s Food Composition Data Platform, hosted by EuroFIR in Belgium, which includes the UK food nutrient data as one of the major datasets.

Nutrient composition has traditionally been published in the McCance and Widdowson’s Composition of Foods series, dating back to 1929. The purpose of the Food Databank National Capability is to update and improve food composition data for nutrients and also bioactive compounds with health effects, and to make the information more accessible using a range of formats including internet and mobile phone technologies.

“The impact of such data is far reaching,” said Paul Finglas. “It informs government policy, making sure that health advice and initiatives are based on sound, up-to-date evidence. The data are also used by scientists, the food industry, healthcare practitioners, right through to consumers reading the nutrition information on packaging.”

The information needs to be examined periodically to ensure it matches modern food production processes and represents what consumers are buying. Changes to the egg data reflect improvements in the feed given to chickens, an increase in average egg size, and improvements to methods of analysis.

The new analysis of eggs will be presented by the Institute of Food Research and the British Nutrition Foundation at the Nutrition Society’s Summer meeting on 18th July. It is available from the Department of Health website.

As part of the UK Foodcomp consortium, led by IFR and including BNF, LGC Ltd, and Eurofins Laboratories Ltd, the researchers have already completed a report on trans fatty acids. The report concluded that a process of voluntary action within the food industry had successfully removed almost all artificial trans fats from processed foods. Upcoming reports will provide new and updated information for nutrient content of fish and fruits and vegetables.


This study was funded by the Department of Health. The Food Databanks National Capability is located at the Institute of Food Research, Norwich, UK and is funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). Additional analysis was commissioned by the British Egg Industry Council (BEIC).



IFR Press Office:

Andrew Chapple,, 01603 251490

Notes to Editors:

About the Institute of Food Research

  • The mission of the Institute of Food Research,, is to undertake international quality scientific research relevant to food and human health and to work in partnership with others to provide underpinning science for consumers, policy makers, the food industry and academia. It is a company limited by guarantee, with charitable status.
  • IFR is one of eight institutes that receive strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. IFR received a total of £13.4M investment from BBSRC in 2010-11.
  • The institutes deliver innovative, world class bioscience research and training, leading to wealth and job creation, generating high returns for the UK economy. They have strong links with business, industry and the wider community, and support policy development
  • The institutes’ research underpins key sectors of the UK economy such as agriculture, bioenergy, biotechnology, food and drink and pharmaceuticals. In addition, the institutes maintain unique research facilities of national importance.


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Paul Finglas