Eggs and Fat
Eggs and Fat
Eggs contain an average of 10.3 grams of total fat per serve of eggs* making them a moderate source of dietary fat. The majority of the fat in eggs is unsaturated with 3.4 grams being saturated fat. Results from the 2011-12 National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey3 (NNPAS) show egg products and dishes contribute just 2.3% of the average total fat intake, 1.8% of the average total saturated fat intake, 2.2% of the average total polyunsaturated fat intake and 2.4% of the average total monounsaturated fat intake in the Australian diet. Egg products and dishes therefore contribute more to unsaturated fat intakes in the average Australian diet and contribute relatively little to saturated and trans fat intakes.
Eggs provide omega-3 fatty acids, contributing an average of 180mg per serve. Of this, 114mg is long chain omega-3 fatty acids, which represents 71-127% of the adequate intake (AI) for adults4. Eggs enriched with omega-3 fatty acids provide even more of these fatty acids, with total amounts varying between brands. The NNPAS reported egg products and dishes contributed 1.6% of the average omega-3 ALA intake and 3.8% of the average omega-3 long chain intake of Australians. Table 1 outlines the fatty acid composition of Australian eggs.
Table 1: Fatty acid composition of Australian eggs
Fatty acid profile
Fatty acid content (g/100g)
Alpha linolenic acid
Egg fatty acids and nutrient absorption
Research has demonstrated that one of the beneficial effects of the fat in eggs is that it increases the bioavailability of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin which are found in the egg yolk5,6. In addition, research has shown that when eggs are consumed with raw salad vegetables, the bioavailability of carotenoids from the salad are also increased as well as those from the eggs7. Lutein and zeaxanthin are found in the macular region of the retina8,9 and play an important role in eye health10. For further information on eggs and eye health, refer to the ENC position statement on this topic.
Omega-3 fatty acids and health benefits
An increased intake of omega-3 fats is known to protect against heart disease11,12, some inflammatory diseases and autoimmune disorders including rheumatoid arthritis13 as well as promoting eye health14. Omega-3 fats also play a major role in infant growth and development, as well as behaviour, attention and learning in children15. Omega-3 fats are also important in maintaining good mental health with some research suggesting possible benefits of omega-3 intake for depression16,17 as well as protection against cognitive decline and incidence of dementia in older adults18.
The Heart Foundation and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommend increased consumption of omega-3 fats, namely alpha-linolenic (ALA) and its long chain metabolites eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA is a plant-based fatty acid, found in foods such as walnuts, canola oil and soybeans, whereas EPA and DHA are mainly present in marine sources (fish, shellfish, marine algae), along with eggs and meat.
The Heart Foundation’s most recent recommendations19,20 for the primary prevention of heart disease are that all Australians, including those with existing heart disease:
- Aim for 2-3 serves of fish (150-200g), including oily fish per week, to achieve about 250-500mg per day of combined EPA/DHA.
- Aim for 1g of short chain omega-3 (ALA) per day.
Results from the latest National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey show that a small number of Australians are consuming high amounts of omega-3 fats but that the vast majority of Australians are consuming much lower amounts. Only 20% of the population meet the recommended long-chain omega-3 intakes and only 10% of women meet the recommended DHA intake21. These data indicate that there is a need for Australians to increase their daily intake of omega-3-containing foods to meet current recommendations for optimal health.
Omega-3 enriched eggs
Eggs can be enriched through the provision of omega-3 food sources (such as linseed, chia seeds or fish oil) in the diets of laying hens22,23 with a recent Australian study indicating the addition of omega-3 via chia seeds produced eggs with the most acceptable sensory profile23.
Studies specifically conducted with omega-3 enriched eggs have shown their consumption can infer health benefits, particularly for improving blood lipid profiles24-28 and in specific population groups such as infants29,30 and lacto-ovo vegetarians31,32. Due to their contribution of a wide range of nutrients to the diet, eggs can be a valuable inclusion in a healthy eating pattern and contribute only moderate amounts of total fat, the majority of which is beneficial unsaturated fat, including useful amounts of omega-3 fats. Given many Australians fall short of the omega-3 recommendations for chronic disease prevention, including eggs regularly can make a useful contribution to daily intakes. In particular, eggs provide a source of omega-3 fats for lacto-ovo vegetarians and individuals who do not consume fish regularly.
This statement is for healthcare professionals only.
*One serve = 2x60g eggs (104g edible portion)
Wondering if eggs are good for you? Without a doubt, there are a number of benefits to eating eggs every day. Learn about the proven health benefits of eating eggs here.
Omega-3 Centre: www.omega-3centre.com
Heart Foundation Position Statements: https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/for-professionals/food-and-nutrition/position-statements
- Newspoll Market Research. Eggs Tracking Study. (Newspoll Market Research, Braddon, ACT, Australia, 2012).
- Newspoll Market Research. Eggs Tracking Survey. (Newspoll Market Research, Braddon, ACT, Australia, 2015).
- Australian Bureau of Statistics. Australian Health Survey: Nutrition First Results - Foods and Nutrients, 2011-12 (ed. Australian Bureau of Statistics) (Canberra, ACT, Australia, 2014).
- National Health and Medical Research Council. Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand including Recommended Dietary Intakes, (NHRMC, Canberra, 2006).
- Handelman, G.J., Nightingale, Z.D., Lichtenstein, A.H., Schaefer, E.J. & Blumberg, J.B. Lutein and zeaxanthin concentrations in plasma after dietary supplementation with egg yolk. Am J Clin Nutr 70, 247-251 (1999).
- Ma, L. & Lin, X.M. Effects of lutein and zeaxanthin on aspects of eye health. J Sci Food Agric 90, 2-12 (2010).
- Kim, J.E., Gordon, S., Ferruzzi, M. & Campbell, W. Effects of Whole Egg Consumption on Carotenoids Absorption from Co-Consumed, Carotenoids-Rich Mixed-Vegetable Salad. FASEB J 29(2015).
- Rao, A.V. & Rao, L.G. Carotenoids and human health. Pharmacol Res 55, 207-216 (2007).
- Pratt, S. Dietary prevention of age-related macular degeneration. J Am Optom Assoc 70, 39-47 (1999).
- Abdel-Aal el, S.M., Akhtar, H., Zaheer, K. & Ali, R. Dietary sources of lutein and zeaxanthin carotenoids and their role in eye health. Nutrients 5, 1169-1185 (2013).
- de Goede, J., Geleijnse, J.M., Boer, J.M.A., Kromhout, D. & Verschuren, W.M.M. Marine (n-3) Fatty Acids, Fish Consumption, and the 10-Year Risk of Fatal and Nonfatal Coronary Heart Disease in a Large Population of Dutch Adults with Low Fish Intake. J Nutr 140, 1023-1028 (2010).
- Pan, A., et al. α-Linolenic acid and risk of cardiovascular disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr 96, 1262-1273 (2012).
- Wall, R., Ross, R.P., Fitzgerald, G.F. & Stanton, C. Fatty acids from fish: the anti-inflammatory potential of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. Nutr Rev 68, 280-289 (2010).
- Schweigert, F.J. & Reimann, J. [Micronutrients and their relevance for the eye--function of lutein, zeaxanthin and omega-3 fatty acids]. Klin Monbl Augenheilkd 228, 537-543 (2011).
- Omega-3 Centre. Omega-3 fatty acids – essential nutrients for our children. Scientific Consensus Workshop (2007).
- Pottala, J.V., et al. Red blood cell fatty acids are associated with depression in a case-control study of adolescents. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids 86, 161-165 (2012).
- Hallahan, B., et al. Efficacy of omega-3 highly unsaturated fatty acids in the treatment of depression. Br J Psychiatry (2016).
- Loef, M. & Walach, H. The omega-6/omega-3 ratio and dementia or cognitive decline: a systematic review on human studies and biological evidence. J Nutr Gerontol Geriatr 32, 1-23 (2013).
- Nestel, P., et al. Indications for Omega-3 Long Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid in the Prevention and Treatment of Cardiovascular Disease. Heart Lung Circ 24, 769-779 (2015).
- Foundation, N.H. Healthy Hearts Position Statement - Fish and Seafood. (NHF, 2015).
- Meyer, B.J. Australians are not Meeting the Recommended Intakes for Omega-3 Long Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids: Results of an Analysis from the 2011-2012 National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey. Nutrients 8(2016).
- Petrovic, M., et al. Enrichment of eggs in n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids by feeding hens with different amount of linseed oil in diet. Food Chem 135, 1563-1568 (2012).
- Coorey, R., Novinda, A., Williams, H. & Jayasena, V. Omega-3 Fatty Acid profile of eggs from laying hens fed diets supplemented with chia, fish oil, and flaxseed. J Food Sci 80, S180-187 (2015).
- Watrin, I., Brasseur, D. & Carpenter, Y.A. Effect of the consumption of omega-3 fatty acid-enriched eggs on the lipid profiles of adolescents with hypercholesterolemia. un-published, 1-8 (2003).
- Prado-Martinez, C., Moreno, M.C., Anderson, A.H.N., Martinez, R.M. & Melero, C.D. Effect of substituting standard eggs with Columbus eggs in the diet of Spanish post-menopausal female volunteers. un-published, 1-12 (2003).
- Jiang, Z. & Sim, J.S. Consumption of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid-enriched eggs and changes in plasma lipids of human subjects. Nutrition 9, 513-518 (1993).
- Bovet, P., Faeh, D., Madeleine, G., Viswanathan, B. & Paccaud, F. Decrease in blood triglycerides associated with the consumption of eggs of hens fed with food supplemented with fish oil. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis 17, 280-287 (2007).
- Maki, K.C., et al. Lipid responses in mildly hypertriglyceridemic men and women to consumption of docosahexaenoic acid-enriched eggs. Int J Vitam Nutr Res 73, 357-368 (2003).
- Makrides, M., Hawkes, J.S., Neumann, M.A. & Gibson, R.A. Nutritional effect of including egg yolk in the weaning diet of breast-fed and formula-fed infants: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr 75, 1084-1092 (2002).
- Hoffman, D.R., et al. Maturation of visual acuity is accelerated in breast-fed term infants fed baby food containing DHA-enriched egg yolk. J Nutr 134, 2307-2313 (2004).
- Burns-Whitmore, B.L., et al. Effect of n-3 fatty acid enriched eggs and organic eggs on serum lutein in free-living lacto-ovo vegetarians. Eur J Clin Nutr 64, 1332-1337 (2010).
- Burns-Whitmore, B., Haddad, E., Sabate, J. & Rajaram, S. Effects of supplementing n-3 fatty acid enriched eggs and walnuts on cardiovascular disease risk markers in healthy free-living lacto-ovo-vegetarians: a randomized, crossover, free-living intervention study. Nutr J 13, 29 (2014).