Use of chicken eggshell to improve dietary calcium intake in rural sub-Saharan Africa

Bartter, J and Diffey, H and Yeung, Y H and O'Leary, F and Haesler, B and Maulaga, W and Alders, R (2018) Use of chicken eggshell to improve dietary calcium intake in rural sub-Saharan Africa. Maternal & Child Nutrition, 14 (S3). e12649.

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Abstract

Undernutrition resulting from inadequate access to high‐quality, nutritious food is a widespread issue in sub‐Saharan Africa impacting the health and survival of mothers and their children. Inadequate dietary intake leads to a deficiency in nutrients including calcium, required for growth and physiological functioning. This study investigated the potential of increasing dietary calcium intake by the addition of heat‐treated ground eggshell to locally prepared food. A mixed methods approach of literature review, Delphi expert survey and focus group discussions with women of childbearing age in rural Tanzania, were used to assess the practicality, safety, and acceptability of consumption of ground eggshell. Chicken eggshell has high calcium content (380 mg of calcium/gram) and bioavailability comparable to calcium carbonate (~39%) with 1 g sufficient to provide one half of a sub‐Saharan African adult female's dietary calcium needs. Salmonella was indicated as the most likely threat to human health through eggshell consumption. Experts agreed that eggshells boiled for 10 min when preparing hard‐boiled eggs with a further 20 min cooking of crushed eggshell in staple foods would eliminate identified egg‐associated pathogens. Five focus groups (n = 46) indicated eggshells were perceived as waste. However, there was an indication of general acceptance of the approach and a willingness to consider the incorporation of ground eggshells into their diets. Development of suitable communication methods are required to convey benefits and safe preparation methods. Ground eggshell could be a highly equitable method of increasing calcium intakes across rural sub‐Saharan Africa where calcium intake is low and village poultry ownership common.