Eggs and Protein
Position Statement for Healthcare Professionals
Eggs and Protein
Updated March 2017
Eggs have the highest nutritional quality protein of all food sources, providing all the essential amino acids in amounts that closely match human requirements1. One serve of eggs* contains 12.7 grams of protein, representing 20% of the recommended dietary intake (RDI) for men, 27% of the RDI for women and 1/3 of the RDI for children2.
Australians’ intake of protein
Australians’ intake of protein is increasing with the 2011-12 National Nutrition Survey indicating the average Australian protein intake for those aged 2 years and over is 95 grams per day3, providing 18% of daily energy intake. While this average intake of protein easily meets the recommended dietary intake (RDI) of 46 grams for women and 64 grams for men2, results also revealed 1/3 of children (2-18years) and just over 10% of adults had usual intakes below recommendations of protein as a proportion of total energy intake (<15% of total energy).4
Furthermore, 86% of Australians do not eat adequate amounts from the lean meat and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds and legume/beans group daily5. This is due to a high intake of discretionary foods, like cakes, biscuits and processed meats, are taking the place of nutrient dense options5. It is also because foods such as fish fingers, chicken nuggets and meat pies do not count toward daily intakes of this food group due to their lower nutrient density. The major contributors to lean meat and alternatives were lean red meat (38.4%) followed by lean poultry (29.2%) then nuts/seeds (11.2%), fish and seafood (9.9%), eggs (6.2%) and legumes (4.8%)6. For further information on Australian’s lean meat and alternatives intake visit the Australian Health Survey results.
A number of groups within the population may benefit from increased intakes or higher quality protein sources, including ovo-vegetarians, children and teenagers, older adults and those participating in resistance training.
- Despite the total protein content of a vegetarian diet being significantly lower than an omnivore diet7,8, the majority of vegetarians are still meeting current protein recommendations8,9. It has been suggested, however, that total protein requirements should be higher for vegetarians if low levels of animal protein are consumed10 or if single plant sources are relied upon for protein9 due to the lower digestibility of protein from plant sources. Due to their high protein quality and high digestibility, eggs may therefore be particularly useful in the diets of ovo-vegetarians11.
Children and Teenagers:
- Children and adolescents have increased requirements for protein during periods of growth12. Evidence also shows that higher protein, low glycemic load diets can improve symptoms of acne that is common in teenagers13-15. A higher protein egg-rich breakfast has also been shown to help suppress appetite, reduce subsequent cravings and snacking and prevent body fat gain in adolescent girls16-18. Eggs are an excellent source of protein for children and adolescents due to their ideal amino acid profile, nutrient density and versatility.
Older adults (≥ 70 years):
- Older adults, aged 70 years and over, have a greater protein RDI than younger people, as they may need further additional protein to stimulate muscle protein formation19 and maintain fat free mass2. It has been demonstrated that the formation of muscle protein in older adults can be stimulated by the increased availability of protein and/or amino acids from foods20. Muscle mass in older adults can be maintained through adequate protein intake combined with resistance training21,22. Increasing protein intake may also assist wound healing and immune function in older adults23. Protein intakes as high as 2g per kg of bodyweight per day (equal to 140g per day for a 70kg adult) have been recommended for older adults with severe illness or malnutrition24. Eggs are an ideal protein source for older adults as they are economical, easy to prepare and easy to chew.
- Some athletes can benefit from higher protein intakes for preservation of lean muscle mass and weight loss25,26. Athletes who undergo resistance training, particularly in the early phases of their program where muscle synthesis is high, can also benefit from extra dietary protein27. Eggs are a highly bioavailable protein source that can easily be included in the diets of athletes without adding unwanted bulk. Recent evidence suggests that to maximise the benefits of protein intake in athletes, moderate amounts (approximately 20g) are consumed at regular intervals (every 3 hours) throughout the day28. A serve of eggs, providing nearly 13g protein, can be a convenient source of protein for athletes.
- People following a kilojoule-controlled diet may benefit from an increased percentage of energy from protein. Evidence, including a number of Australian clinical trials, have demonstrated that moderately higher protein, lower carbohydrate, kilojoule controlled diets can be an effective weight loss strategy for some individuals29-32. It is likely that protein’s role in weight management is largely due to its effects on satiety and appetite33. Higher protein intakes may also assist in maintaining fat free mass, preserving resting energy expenditure and decreasing diastolic blood pressure as part of a weight loss diet34,35. Based on the latest research, meal-specific protein quantities of at least 25-30g protein per meal are suggested to provide improvements in appetite and body weight management35. Being nutrient dense and a good source of high quality protein, eggs are one food that fit well within the dietary recommendations for moderately higher protein weight loss diets.
Due to their significant contribution to nutrient intakes, eggs can be a valuable inclusion in a healthy diet and contribute significant amounts of high quality protein to assist in meeting daily requirements.
This statement is for healthcare professionals only.
*One serve = 2x60g eggs (104g edible portion)
1. FAO. Dietary protein quality evaluation in human health Report of an FAO Expert Consultation. (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, Rome, 2013).
2. National Health and Medical Research Council. Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand including Recommended Dietary Intakes, (NHRMC, Canberra, 2006).
3. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Australian Health Survey: Nutrition First Results - Foods and Nutrients, 2011-12 (ed. Australian Bureau of Statistics) (Canberra, ACT, Australia, 2014).
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12. NHMRC. Food for Health - Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents in Australia. (Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing, Canberra, 2003).
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19. NHMRC. Dietary Guidelines for Older Australians, (Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 1999).
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