Modern eggs also contain about 20% less fat, more than 20% less saturated fat, around 13% fewer calories and more than 10% less cholesterol than previous surveys have suggested.
The average medium egg contains 66 calories, compared with 78 calories, 30 years ago. The average large egg has 77 calories; down from 91 calories.
Professor Judy Buttriss, director general of the British Nutrition Foundation, said: “This particular data reinforces the contribution to essential nutrients that eggs can make as part of a varied diet, for people of all ages.”
British Nutrition Foundation
Two medium eggs can provide about two-thirds of the recommended daily amount for EU labelling purposes for vitamin D.
The researchers point out that the additional vitamin D found in eggs is particularly significant after evidence that a large proportion of Britons have an inadequate supply of this vitamin.
Cath MacDonald, independent nutritionist, said: “This is a very welcome finding at a time when there is rapidly accumulating evidence that a lack of vitamin D could be a risk factor for a number of chronic diseases.”
Greater selenium content is also important since UK selenium intakes have fallen in recent years reflecting a switch from North American to European wheat. Selenium protects cellular components such as DNA, lipids and proteins against oxidation.
The research – funded by the Department of Health as part of its rolling programme of nutrient analysis surveys – provides the first update on the nutrient content of eggs since the 1980s.
The research also reveals that the average medium egg now contains about 177mg of cholesterol. But, it is now acknowledged that cholesterol in foods such as eggs does not significantly affect most people’s blood cholesterol. Major UK heart and health advisory bodies have removed the previous limits on egg consumption linked to cholesterol content.
The changes in the nutritient content of eggs are thought to result from improvements to hens’ feed, an increase in the ratio of white: yolk in an average egg, and improved analytical methods.
Vegetable oils replaced meat and bonemeal in UK hens’ feed in the 1980s. Better quality oils, plus improved feed are thought to have enhanced hens’ absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and the take-up of nutrients.
The research was presented at the Nutrition Society’s summer meeting on July 18.
Today’s eggs – at a glance
- Over 70% more vitamin D than 30 years ago
- Double the amount of selenium
- 20% less fat
- Over 20% less saturated fat
- 13% fewer calories
- 10% less cholesterol
Source: UK Foodcomp project.