Laying hens can convert high doses of folic acid added to the feed into natural folates in eggs providing a novel source of food folate

Leane Hoey*, Helene Mcnulty, Elizabeth M E Mccann, Kelvin J. McCracken, John M. Scott, Barbara Blaznik Marc, Anne M. Molloy, Ciaren Graham, Kristina Pentieva

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


There are few good sources of natural food folates apart from green leafy vegetables and these may have a limited potential to increase folate status because of substantial losses that can occur during cooking. Fortified foods can overcome this but are controversial because of safety concerns regarding chronic exposure to high-dose folic acid (FA; the synthetic form). The aim of the present study was to develop eggs with an enriched natural folate content and minimal unmetabolised FA. Forty-eight, 30-week-old laying hens were randomised to receive the basal feed (formulated to provide 1 mg folate/kg feed) to which had been added one of the following FA levels (0, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 μmg/kg feed). Total folate was measured in eggs collected throughout the 12-week study period and the FA content estimated at 12 weeks. Results showed that the maximal egg folate content was achieved by adding 16 mg FA/kg feed. At this optimal dose, the total folate content per egg was 75 μg (compared with 32 μg in a regular egg) of which FA represented at most 10 %, a level which would probably be converted into natural folates by humans after ingestion. The results demonstrate that it is possible to use synthetic FA at high doses to produce novel animal foods enriched with natural folates in a cost-efficient process. Such foods may be particularly relevant to European populations without access to FA fortification and therefore dependent on natural food folate sources for the primary prevention of folate-related disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)206-212
Number of pages7
JournalBritish Journal of Nutrition
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 03 Jul 2009


  • Eggs
  • Folic acid
  • Natural folates
  • Novel foods

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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