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Information on the latest vitamin D news and research.

Find out more information on deficiency, supplementation, sun exposure, and how vitamin D relates to your health.

Eggs: With or without vitamin D?

The best and most natural way to get vitamin D is by sunbathing, or, when that is not possible, by taking supplements. However, most people will do neither and are thus severely vitamin D deficient. For that reason, enhanced dietary forms of vitamin D are desperately needed for the masses.

Wild-caught fatty fish, such as salmon and sardines are rich in vitamin D, although at about 700 IU per serving, one would have to eat about seven servings of fish per day to get enough vitamin D. Reindeer meat, sea gull eggs, and lichen are also rich sources of vitamin D, but they are not on many menus.

That brings us to food fortification. Many public health officials have contended that we need to have more foods enriched with vitamin D, especially when you consider how deficient some groups of people are in vitamin D.

One barrier to improving vitamin D status this method is that it is simply not possible to put large amounts of vitamin D in any one food, as safety issues arise for those consuming large quantities of that particular food. Thus increasing enrichment of a large variety of foods is important. For instance, several years ago, the idea of adding more vitamin D to cereal-grain products was recommended.

Newmark HL, Heaney RP, Lachance PA. Should calcium and vitamin D be added to the current enrichment program for cereal-grain products? Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Aug;80(2):264-70.

Another strategy is to try and increase the amount of vitamin D in foods that already have some vitamin D in them, naturally. Eggs are often listed as a rich source of vitamin D. Is that true?

According to the USDA, one large egg, which weighs about 50 g, contains approximately 50 IU vitamin D3, which is concentrated in the yolk. Dr Linxing Yao and colleagues of Iowa State University decided to see if they could increase the amount of vitamin D in eggs by feeding the chickens more vitamin D and see that fortification affected egg quality or palatability.

Yao L, Wang T, Persia M, Horst RL, Higgins M. Effects of Vitamin D(3) -Enriched Diet on Egg Yolk Vitamin D(3) Content and Yolk Quality. J Food Sci. 2013 Jan 18.

They conducted a 40-wk experiment using laying hens to investigate the impact of feeding various vitamin D3 enriched diets. Feeds were enriched with four different amounts of vitamin D3, about 9,700, 17,000, 25,000, and 100,000 IU/kg of chicken feed. The control diet, the amount given chickens today, was 2,200 IU D3/kg feed. The chickens tolerated the higher D3 doses without any side effects.

Eggs from each of the four vitamin D enriched diets were collected and analyzed over the 40 weeks of the experiment. The peak D3 concentrations in egg yolk occurred at week 3 and were between 200 IU/egg to about 8,000 IU/egg, depending on the amount of D3 given the hen.

The high D3 diets used demonstrate that up to 160 times higher D3 concentration than that of typical eggs can be obtained through safely feeding chickens a more vitamin D3-enriched diet. The scientists also checked many different indicators of egg quality, such as taste tests and palatability. The high D3 did not adversely affect any measure of egg quality.

Look for vitamin D3 enriched eggs to be in the supermarket soon. I hope we also see more vitamin D enriched cereal-grain products. It may be that only increasing fortification of a wide variety of foods can we improve 25(OH)D levels of the most deficient Americans.

About John Cannell, MD

Dr. John Cannell is founder of the Vitamin D Council. He has written many peer-reviewed papers on vitamin D and speaks frequently across the United States on the subject. Dr. Cannell holds an M.D. and has served the medical field as a general practitioner, emergency physician, and psychiatrist.

5 Responses to Eggs: With or without vitamin D?

  1. Rita and Misty says:

    The fortification of foods with Vitamin D3 will ensure that the majority of Americans are are not insufficient. And, it is an economical way to achieve this goal.

    What a great feat…as perhaps around 80%–90% of the population is currently deficient. :)

    However, I would be surprised if 25(OH)D levels of 50 ng/ml–80 ng/ml could be achieved and maintained thru food fortification alone, no matter how wide the variety of foods fortified….

    It’s a complex issue.

    Yet, food fortification is definitely needed…and the difference between sufficient and optimal 25(OH)D levels, for most people, might then easily be corrected with a multi-vitamin, daily supplement and/or appropriate sun exposure.

    However, including the 25(OH)D test in the typical blood panel is also necessary-imo.

    There are some individuals (like me) who would not achieve and maintain health Vitamin D serum levels through fortified food, supplements and sun exposure.

    I am afraid that those individuals with chronic illnesses will fall through the food fortification gap, and suffer needlessly from diseases which are easily treatable with high levels of Vitamin D.

    It is my hope that the medical community will ultimately see the need of monitoring 25(OH)D levels, at least on a yearly basis.

  2. mbuck says:

    I agree fortifying foods would greatly help folks.

    Since most folks enjoy fast foods and the fast food industry has a bad rep, fortification could improve their image while increasing levels in the general population. Pizzas, burgers, french fries, shakes and sodas, chips and dips, doughnuts, ice cream and the like would be good candidates. Cereals also would be good except for the preformed retinols present in some.

    Multivitamins should be reformulated to replace retinols with carotenoids and increase D3 to 2000 – 4000 IU with co-factors. Lots of folks take multis. Retinols should be replaced by carotenoids in all foods.

    Let’s face it: people don’t like change, especially their favorite foods, so bringing extra D3 into these would be a great benefit.

    Some folks will eat an entire bag of chips, or drink 10 sodas a day, so fortification would have to be moderate, say 400 – 800 IU per soda. But there could be a range of options available to customers–A burger joint could boast: “Now, fortified with 2000 IU D3 for each burger!”, etc. Even those doses would be safe.

    I know farmers use D3 metabolite in chicken feed so fortifying eggs should be inexpensive and productive.

    I think we’re approaching critical mass and the tipping point in terms of public awareness. I’ve already convinced three others to take D3 . I’ve approached each based on my familiarity with their particular likes; one on sports, one on science and math, one on physical activity.

  3. Rita and Misty says:

    @mbuck,
    (you are so funny)

    What a unique idea regarding the fortification of fast and junk foods!

    And, agreed, sometimes it is that wacky idea that will the cake (pun intended here).
    :)

    I think you are well aware that I make it a personal goal to reach out to 10 new people a day regarding Vitamin D. YES–It is very important to understand the pov’s, likes and dislikes of the audience you are addressing…it makes or breaks the conversation.

    Almost (almost) everyone I talk with is taking Vitamin D3, but in very small doses.

    Most become shell-shocked when I start to mention larger amounts.

    Several counterpoint me with: “But, my doctor would tell me if I needed THAT MUCH.”

    Those that are currently healthy cannot fathom having to prevent an illness with Vitamin D.

    And those that are currently ill cannot fathom Vitamin D preventing and/or treating their particular illness.

    However, I too, feel strongly that we’re approaching as you stated: “critical mass and the tipping point in terms of public awareness.”

    This is the time to continue fighting the “good fight.”
    :)
    It is all in a good day’s work!

  4. TND says:

    You say fatty fish – Salmon, sardines, etc – provide only about 700 iu of vitamin d per serving, requiring 7 servings to fulfill a daily requirement. Is 4900 iu truly a normal daily requirement? Also you might look further at the fish/vitamin d issue. 6 oz. of sockeye salmon are rated (vitalchoice.com) at 1100 plus iu. Is that not a reasonable alternative to daily vitamin d supplementation?

  5. Brant Cebulla says:

    TND,

    It’s a reasonable guess that hunter-gatherers receive about 3000-6000 IU/day of vitamin D from the sun and maybe 0-1000 IU/day of vitamin D from diet, depending on what they consumed any given day. Given this, we think trying to get vitamin D from your diet to fulfill requirements is poor strategy, but every little bit helps, certainly.

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