Omega 3 Eggs vs Regular Eggs – Comparison
You've seen them in grocery stores: eggs enriched with omega-3 fatty acids. But how do the omega-3s get into the eggs? There aren't any holes in the shells! And do these enriched eggs really contain much more of the healthy omega-3 fatty acids than regular eggs or organic eggs?
To answer the first question, omega-3-enriched eggs are produced by hens that have been fed a special diet that is high in omega-3 rich foods, such as flaxseed or marine algae oils.
To answer the second question, eggs labeled omega-3 enriched can contain much more of these healthy fatty acids than regular eggs. An Australian study published in the Journal Food Chemistry in 2006, for example, found that the yolks of regular and organic eggs contained on average about 1.3% of omega-3 fatty acids, while the yolks of omega-3 eggs contained about 6% of these essential fatty acids. To carry out their study, the researchers had purchased a total of 180 eggs – including 96 regular eggs, 72 organic eggs and 12 omega-3 enriched eggs – from supermarkets and organic food outlets in and around Sydney. The regular eggs included "cage", "barn-laid" and "free-range" eggs, and the organic eggs were "certified organic".
The researchers discovered some significant differences in the fatty acid composition of the different types of eggs included in this study. Organic eggs contained more saturated fats than regular non-organic eggs, but no significant differences were observed in the polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acid composition of organic vs. regular eggs. The omega-3 eggs had the lowest saturated fatty acid content of all the tested eggs. Not surprisingly, they also contained much more of omega-3 fatty acids, both ALA and DHA, than the organic or regular eggs, and their omega-3 to omega-6 ratio was significantly higher than that of the conventional or organic eggs. The omega-3 content of free-range eggs was similar to that of other eggs from conventional production systems (i.e. "cage" and "barn-laid" eggs).
Comparison: Fatty Acid Composition of Different Types of Egg Yolks
The following comparison chart summarizes the differences in the fatty acid composition of regular vs. organic vs. omega-3 eggs. All the values, except the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, are rounded and given as % of total fat. Please also note that all the values reflect the fatty acid composition of egg yolks, not whole eggs, but since practically all of the fat found in eggs is in their yolks, the values in the following comparison chart give a good idea of the fatty acid composition of whole eggs.
|Regular Eggs||Organic Eggs||Omega-3 Eggs|
|Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), C18:3||<1%||<1%||5%|
|Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), C22:3||<1%||<1%||2%|
|Omega-3 to omega-6||0.09||0.09||0.44|
Omega-3 Eggs Increase ALA and DHA Levels in Humans, Study Shows
As demonstrated by the comparison chart above, omega-3 enriched eggs can contain significantly more ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) than conventional eggs. As you may already know, ALA and DHA are omega-3 fatty acids that are believed impart numerous health benefits due to their direct or indirect anti-inflammatory properties. That, however, requires that the omega-3s in eggs are easily processed and absorbed by the human body.
To investigate the effects of eating omega-3 eggs produced by hens fed diets containing flaxseed, a group of researchers from Canada carried out a study in male volunteers. At the end of the two-week trial, significant increases in total omega-3 fatty acid levels and in DHA content, and a significant increase in the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio were found in platelet phospholipids of the men who received the omega-3 eggs. The researchers concluded that eggs modified by the inclusion of flaxseed in the laying hens' diet could provide an important dietary source of omega-3 fatty acids for humans.
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