Omega-3 Shell Eggs Found to have more DHA Omega-3 Phospholipid than Popular Krill Oil Capsules: On-site ISSFAL Conference Report (from Stockholm)

July 2, 2014


Direct Comparison of Omega-3 Phospholipid Levels in Krill Oil Supplements and Omega-3 Eggs
Holub, B., Tran, S., and Piekarski ,J., Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
(The present report is filed on-site by the DHA/EPA Omega-3 Institute from the 11th Congress of the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids being held in Stockholm, Sweden)


Omega-3 phospholipid containing DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is a physiologically-essential component of cell membranes in the brain and retina to support optimal cognitive and visual functioning, respectively.  The recent popularity of krill oil supplements is based on the presence of omega-3 in phospholipid form and claims of superior bioavailability of omega-3 relative to fish oils.  Since a significant portion of the lipid in eggs exist in a phospholipid form, it was of interest to directly compare the levels of omega-3 phospholipid in krill oil capsules with that in omega-3 eggs (from laying hens fed feeds containing omega-3 fatty acid from flax or flax/fish oil) with a particular added interest in DHA-containing phospholipid.

Composites of leading commercial krill oil supplements from the US and Canada and omega-3 eggs were prepared and the fatty acid compositions of the total lipid and the isolated phospholipids following chromatographic separations were analyzed following high performance capillary gas-liquid chromatography.

The composite analyses determined the total omega-3 fatty acid amount per krill oil capsule to range from 123-142 mgs of which 63-71 mgs were associated with phospholipid.  The corresponding amounts per omega-3 egg ranged from 364-446 mgs and 104-106 mgs, respectively.  The summed amount of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) + DHA (as fatty acid) associated with phospholipid per krill oil capsule ranged from 56-61 mgs and 80-90 mgs in the omega-3 eggs.  The absolute average amounts of DHA-containing phospholipid per krill oil capsule were 46-54 mgs and 180 - 195 mgs in the omega-3 shell eggs. Up to 61-64 % of the total DHA plus EPA in the krill oil supplements was found in the phospholipid form as compared to 76-89 % for the omega-3 eggs.

The presenter(s) concluded that the omega-3 shell eggs represent a very rich source of omega-3 phospholipid, particularly DHA-containing phospholipid, with amounts that surpass some popular krill oil supplements.

Dr. Holub's Comments:

The overall published literature from human trials indicates that there is either no difference in the bioavailability (digestibility) of DHA/EPA consumed in the triglyceride form (the predominant form of DHA/EPA in the vast majority of fish/seafood sources and fish oil supplements) versus the phospholipid form although isolated reports have suggested a moderately higher bioavailability for the latter. Nonetheless, intact phospholipids as consumed orally have not been reported to enter the brain and retina (eye) in their original form without partial or complete breakdown in the body despite the fact that DHA-containing phospholipid is a major form of DHA omega-3 in the cell membranes of nerve tissue. The present study showing a much higher level of DHA-containing phospholipid in the shell eggs as compared to the popular krill oil supplements is of further interest considering the calculated cost per equal amount of DHA phospholipid provided was 75 % less when consumed as the shell egg.

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