Egg membranes keep your muscles young
Do you discard the membrane between the shell and the egg white when you are eating your eggs? New research suggests that this membrane is in fact a source of youth: It keeps your muscles young for longer.
A few years ago, Nofima scientists helped investigate how the membrane on the inside of the egg shell can make wounds heal faster. However, Senior Scientists Mona E. Pedersen and Sissel B. Rønning have not contented themselves with simply healing wounds – they are now testing the effect the membrane has on muscles, inflammation and the intestinal flora.
Eggshells reduces aging
So far, the results are looking good. Eating eggshell membrane can help slow down the aging in your muscles. “This means it can help mitigate the muscle loss everyone experiences from the age of 40”, they say.
Initially, the scientists tested the effect of eggshell membrane on cells in the laboratory and in aging mice. “We used cells from different organs, such as muscle cells, immune cells and intestinal cells”, says Rønning. “This allows us to get an indication of whether the membrane can have a beneficial effect on these organs.”
“What we saw both when we did studies on cells in the lab and on mice at our partner institution NMBU, was that ingesting a certain amount of eggshell membrane can reduce markers of aging in the muscles,” says Pedersen.
Better grip strength
The mice were given eggshell membranes to eat from the time they were middle-aged until they grew old. “We also looked at the muscle structure. As a young muscle ages, its appearance also changes”, says Pedersen.
The old muscles resembled younger muscles. In addition, the membrane improves a very specific function: grip strength, which does not deteriorate as fast.
“The membrane prevents you from dropping things as much. Grip strength is a physiological function – we hardly expected to see any effects on that”, says Mona E. Pedersen.
The researchers have also conducted a small experiment on humans. Elderly test subjects in good health were given capsules containing eggshell membrane, but only for a shorter period of time.
“When we examined their blood, we observed an anti-inflammatory effect”, says Mona E. Pedersen.
“Extracting muscle samples is too invasive.” Instead, the scientists at the University of Oslo took blood samples, and saw that the eggshell membrane reduced the amount of inflammatory substances in the blood. “We know that these inflammatory substances play a role in breaking down the muscles”, explains Sissel B. Rønning. Mild inflammation is one of the factors that contributes to the loss of muscle mass with age.
The scientists also investigated the impact on digestion – although only on mice and in the laboratory so far.
“The beneficial effects we observed in muscles are also observed in the intestine”, the two scientists explain. In addition, the intestine contained a greater variety of bacteria – and more of the “good” bacteria that provide better health.
Utilising raw materials
An added bonus of the research is that it makes it possible to exploit resources that would otherwise go to waste. “We have a strong focus on utilising all the raw materials we handle in the best possible way,” says Per Berg, Director of R&D and Innovation at Nortura.
“The fact that our raw materials can provide health benefits is inspiring and can provide many new opportunities for us in the future,” says Berg.
Norilia, Nortura’s subsidiary that handles the residue from slaughter and eggs that are not used for food, produces 40 tons of eggshell membrane a year.
“Norwegian eggs are salmonella-free, which means it is easier and safer to use these products. In addition, it gives Norway a positive advantage where the raw materials can also be utilised abroad,” say Mona E. Pedersen and Sissel B. Rønning.
Heidi Alvestrand is the Director of Business Development at Norilia. She has great optimism in products made with eggshell membrane. In partnership with Nortura Revetal and the start-up company Biovotec, Norilia has built an industrial process line to separate the membrane from the eggshells.
“This project is very important to us in order to test the membrane, investigating what functional and bioactive properties it has and how it can be used. It is especially important for us to document the health-related properties and their effects”, she says.
“Research is important for developing products and markets and documenting properties and effects. We see several interesting applications for the membrane in high-value products, for example in dietary supplements”, says Alvestrand.
Facts about the research
The research is carried out as part of the OptiEgg project “Optimal verdiøkning av eggeprodukter” (Optimal value creation from egg products). The project’s goal is to utilize the entire egg as a raw material in the food industry and to look at what significance eggs and egg products can have for public health. Nortura is leading the project in partnership with Nofima (project manager), NMBU and the University of Oslo.
The methods used to test cell properties in this project have been developed through the strategic research programmes at Nofima funded by the Foundation for Research Levy on Agricultural Products.
Raw material knowledge