Modified egg as a nutritional supplement during peak brain development: a new target for fortification

Nutr Health. 2009;20(2):107-18. doi: 10.1177/026010600902000203.


Background: Though eggs have the unique capacity, like breastmilk, to concentrate essential nutrients required for early growth and brain development of offspring - i.e. n-3 PUFA, increasingly deficient and sources contaminated - cholesterol and allergy concerns often exclude them from perinatal recommendations.

Objective: Egg's potential contribution of key nutrients required for peak brain development are re-evaluated vis-à-vis fortification, accessibility, and risks.

Methods: Contributions of standard (USDA) and fortified (selected market-available) egg compositions to perinatal requirements for critical brain-supporting nutrients were compared to human and cow milks, and risks and recommendations evaluated.

Results: Standard egg has already higher concentrations/kcal of iron, selenium, zinc, choline, vitamins B12 and E, and essential amino acids (plus taurine) than human milk. Fortified egg could further yield significant n-3 PUFA % recommendations for pregnancy-lactation (total n-3 69.6-75.0% [DRI=1400-1300 mg/day]), including DHA (120.1-129.3%, mostly approximately 80% [calculated DRI=140-130 mg/day]), plus antioxidant vitamins A (9.0-15.2%) and E (51.6-65.3%), and minerals iodine (33.6-44.5%) and selenium (33.7-39.3%); % recommendations for children (1-3 y) even more. Cholesterol, important for nerve membranes and learning, may not be generally contraindicated in childbearing-aged women (approximately 10.5% hypercholesterolemia), and early-life egg exposure may increase tolerance. Egg-inclusive perinatal nutrition programs have shown significant contributions.

Conclusions: Eggs, especially target-fortified, may provide a unique nutritional supplement for peak brain development continously during pregnancy, nursing, and infancy (from 6 months), especially vs. insufficiencies. Missing nutritional opportunities by egg exclusion vs. concerns of hypercholesterolemia or allergy could be addressed individually, rather than as general recommendations, warranting further research and targeted egg design.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids, Essential
  • Animals
  • Brain / embryology
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Diet / methods
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Female
  • Food, Fortified*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Milk / chemistry
  • Milk, Human / chemistry
  • Minerals
  • Nutrition Policy
  • Nutritive Value
  • Ovum / chemistry*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Vitamins


  • Amino Acids, Essential
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Minerals
  • Vitamins