Today’s eggs contain 70 per cent more vitamin D and double the amount of selenium than those tested 30 years ago, a study has found.
They also contain around 20 per cent less fat, more than 20 per cent less saturated fat, 13 per cent fewer calories and more than 10 per cent less cholesterol than previous surveys suggested, according to data produced by the UK Foodcomp project and funded by the Department of Health.
The average medium egg now contains 66 calories, compared with the previous figure of 78 calories, while a large egg contains 77 calories, down from the previous 91 calories.
The study found that two medium eggs can provide around two-thirds of the recommended daily amount of vitamin D.
The changes are believed to be the result of improvements to hens’ feed, an increase in the ratio of white to yolk in an average egg and improved analytical methods since the last official analysis was carried out in the 1980s.
The British Egg Information Service said vegetable oils replaced meat and bonemeal in UK hens’ feed in the 1980s, and it was thought that better quality oils and other improvements to feed had improved hens’ absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and nutrients.
DoH figures show that up to a quarter of the population have low levels of vitamin D in their blood and the majority of pregnant women do not take vitamin D supplements.
In severe cases, deficiency can lead to bone problems such as rickets in children and weakness, aches and pains due to osteomalacia, the adult form of rickets. Vitamin D is naturally obtained through exposure to sunlight and from other foods such as oily fish and some breakfast cereals.