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How we’re putting the sunshine in sunny side up eggs

By Newcastle University
Two happy eggs with hand-drawn smiley faces

We’re cracking the problem of vitamin D deficiency in the UK. Discover why you may have spotted our logo on the lid of a box of Happy Eggs in our latest blog.

We all know getting enough of the ‘sunshine vitamin’ can help keep our bones, teeth and muscles healthy. But what happens when we don’t get enough?

Why is vitamin D so important?

Vitamin D deficiency is particularly common during the winter months - when sunlight and daylight hours are reduced - and is linked to a number of long-term inflammatory conditions. In fact, a severe lack of vitamin D may lead to bone softening, deformities and rickets.

This is because vitamin D helps our bodies to use calcium and phosphorus effectively, two minerals that are essential for making bones grow and without enough, our bones become weak.

And it’s for this reason that intake of vitamin D across the UK is so concerning.

On average, UK intake of vitamin D is less than 30% of the recommended intake of 10μg/day.

Where can I get vitamin D from?

We can only get vitamin D from sunlight and our diets. The best natural source of vitamin D is oily fish such as mackerel, salmon and herring. Some foods are also fortified such as breakfast cereals, but fortification is patchy and variable.

We know that over 90% of the British population is not getting enough vitamin D and there is an urgent need to develop food that will solve this problem.

While most people will get enough vitamin D from moderate and safe sun exposure in summer, we have to ensure our diets provide the vitamin D we need during the rest of the year.

However, our researchers believe that eggs enriched with vitamin D could improve vitamin D intake and address the widespread problem of deficiency in the UK.


eggs-tra’ vitamin D

Inspired by his work on how diet affects the bones and muscles of older people, Tom Hill, Professor of Nutrition at Newcastle University worked with Noble Foods to examine whether feeding hens supplementary vitamin D in their diet would translate into enriched eggs.

The findings were resounding.

With a whole new diet rich in vitamin D, the more vitamin D is present in the eggs the hens lay. In fact, feeding flocks of commercial hens up to 75μg of vitamin D in each kilogram of feed for 6 weeks improves the total vitamin D content in the eggs by up to 40%.

Soon after reaching these findings, the UK’s leading free-range egg brand, The Happy Eggs Company, wholeheartedly adopted the diet for their flocks.

Few foods naturally contain vitamin D. But eggs are one of few natural sources, with vitamin D in the yolk. The unique diet of the hens at The Happy Eggs Company means they lay eggs with 28% more vitamin D per 100g than regular eggs. This means two large Happy Eggs gives you more than 94% of the daily vitamin D you need.


What’s next?

We’re not resting on our laurels.

The team continues their research with focus currently on consumer attitudes to enriched eggs and how they may be included more widely into the UK diet. For the egg industry as a whole, the research has shown that improving the diet of hens with vitamin D not only ensures the health of the flocks, but produces eggs enriched with vitamin D to help address the deficiencies.

Professor Tom Hill said: “The collaboration between Newcastle University and our industry partners, Noble Foods and DSM ltd, has been very enjoyable. We have shown the benefits of working with industry to develop real world food solutions to tackling nutrient deficiencies in the UK population.”

And consumers are happy too, with 29.5% of the population buying eggs from The Happy Egg Company.

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Tags: Working with Business, Research, Research Excellence, Ageing and Health