Unscrambling the Science Behind Eggs and Omega-3 Fatty Acids


James D. House, B.Sc.(Agr), Ph.D.
Professor and Head
Department of Human Nutritional Sciences
University of Manitoba

Today’s post comes from James House, Ph.D. Dr. House is studying the relationship between water soluble vitamin nutrition, the metabolism of amino acids, and how they relate to optimal growth and health of individuals. He also maintains a strong focus towards the development of functional foods of animal origin.  He is also a member of ENC’s Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP).

The omega 3 fatty acids include the plant-based alpha-linolenic acid (ALA; high levels in flax and chia, moderate levels in hemp and canola), and the animal-based, longer chain fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA),  docosapentaenoic acid (DPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).  The consumption of omega-3 fatty acids has been linked to cardioprotective effects, including reduced serum triglycerides, reduced blood pressure, and anti-inflammatory and anti-arrhythmic effects.   Several reviews have been published in the last few years to highlight the linkage between omega-3 consumption and potential health benefits. From a nutritional standpoint, the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) process led to the establishment of an adequate intake (AI) for the omega-3 fatty acid ALA, in the amount of 1.1 g/d for women, and 1.6 g/d for men.  The same recommendations indicated that as much as 10% of the ALA can be provided by the sum of EPA, DPA and DHA, since these are synthesized from ALA, equivalent to 110- 160 mg/d.  These recommendations were based on the usual intake patterns of consumers in the US. However, evidence supports the consideration of higher intakes of the longer chain omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA and DHA, for cardiovascular health, in addition to suggested benefits in reducing risk for certain cancers and inflammatory conditions.  Both EPA and DHA are found in significant amounts in fish and other marine foods, and the consumption of two servings of fish per week could lead to the intake of 250 mg/d of EPA/DHA that is being recommended in some circles.  While marine sources represent the highest natural sources of the long-chain omega 3 fatty acids, eggs also provide the spectrum of omega-3 fatty acids.

  • A serving of two, classic table eggs (100 g) provides 65 mg or roughly 50% of the daily suggested amount of the long chain omega-3 fatty acids, based on the DRIs

In addition, by adding flaxseed, fish oil, or algal oils to the hen’s diet, we can significantly enhance both the total and the long chain omega-3 content of the egg.  Current research is focused on enhancing the content of not only the omega-3’s , but other important nutrients for the population, including:

  • Vitamin D
  • Folate
  • Vitamin B12

Stay tuned for future blogs that describe successes with enhancing eggs with these important nutrients.