Dietary supplements containing egg powder may be key to fighting world hunger

MUNICH, Germany — Estimates show that over 825 million people all over the world suffer from poor nutrition. Even worse, children and infants make up a large portion of that group. Roughly 14 million children under five years-old suffer from severe acute malnutrition. While it’s no secret that world hunger is a serious, ongoing problem, new research may have uncovered a fresh new way to help stop hunger and malnutrition — egg powder.

An international study led by the Leibniz Institute for Food Systems Biology at the Technical University of Munich (LSB) reports egg powder has great potential to possibly improve the nutritional situation of children in deprived areas. In comparison to pasteurized whole egg, egg powder contains fewer essential fatty acids while still providing plenty of vitamins, essential amino acids, and important trace elements. Additionally, egg powder boasts a very long shelf life (minus any preservatives) and minimal water content. It is also easy to transport over long distances and easy to prepare and add to other foods.

“Studies show that adding one egg a day to complementary food can help reduce the incidence of underweight in older infants by 74 percent, as well as counteract the so-called ‘stunting’ effect,” says Veronika Somoza, director of the Leibniz Institute for Food Systems Biology at the Technical University of Munich (LSB), in a university release.

Egg powder is free of toxic metals

In areas where malnutrition is common and part of everyday life, eggs usually aren’t easy to find. Study authors believe inexpensive egg powder may be a viable alternative.

However, despite all of the hypothetical advantages of egg powder, there is little information about its nutritional value. To get a better idea of egg powder’s nutritional profile, researchers conducted an extensive comparative study. Using state-of-the-art food chemistry analysis methods, study authors identified the separate nutrient profiles of three batches of industrially produced, pasteurized whole eggs, as well as egg powder processed from eggs. The team then compared those samples on a dry matter basis.

“As our analyses showed, the drying process did not lead to an accumulation of the heavy metals cadmium, lead, arsenic and mercury,” reports lead study author Philip Pirkwieser, PhD chemist at LSB.

How can scientists maximize egg powder as a supplement?

Notably, researchers observed little to no loss of total fat content, essential amino acid content, and important trace elements or carotenoids. Also, vitamin E (alpha- and gamma-tocopherol) and vitamin B12 concentrations remained close to constant. However, vitamin A (retinol) levels did drop by 14 percent, and levels of vital omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids declined significantly, with an average drop 39 and 61 percent, respectively.

“Despite the small loss of retinol, egg powder is a valuable source of vitamin A. Sub-Saharan African regions in particular could benefit from this. This is because vitamin A deficiency is widespread there and leads to a high prevalence of vision problems,” Somoza concludes.

Eating the egg powder equivalent of one medium-sized egg covers about 24 percent of a child’s daily vitamin A requirement, 100 percent of their vitamin E requirement, 61 percent of their daily selenium needs, and 22 percent of daily recommended zinc (depending on age).

In conclusion, study authors theorize if they can increase the amount of essential fatty acids and vitamin A found in egg powder, the full potential of egg powder as a food supplement may come to fruition. This may be achievable through chicken feed enriched with these fatty acids and vitamins.

The study is published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition.