Research: Phytoestrogen and shell quality

18-07-2012 | | |
Research: Phytoestrogen and shell quality

Swedish researchers have published results looking into the effects of phytoestrogen supplementation in the feed on the shell gland of laying hens at the end of the laying period.


Shell quality decreases as laying hens age and the aim of present study was to investigate how a supplement of daidzein, a natural phytoestrogen in soy, affects key factors in the shell gland and eggshell quality in late-stage laying hens.

Trial setup

Hybrids of Lohmann Selected Leghorn (LSL) and Lohmann Brown (LB), received either a daidzein diet (50 mg/kg feed) or a control diet from 60 to 72 weeks of age.


Both the total number of capillaries and capillaries with carbonic anhydrase (CA) activity were higher in the LSL hybrid than in the LB.

After daidzein supplementation the number of CA positive capillaries was unaffected in the LSL but increased in the LB hybrid indicating a higher sensitivity to daidzein in this hybrid.

Estrogen receptor alpha and beta (ERα, ERβ) were localized and the complete picture of the two ERs can now be described in shell gland of domestic hens.

Nuclear and cytoplasmic staining was generally stronger for ERβ, while membrane associated staining was present only for ERα.

Interestingly, capillary endothelium contained only ERβ and since estrogen regulation of CA is well documented, the presence of an endothelial ER provides one possible route for the increase in CA positive capillaries found in LB hybrids.

Eggshell quality or egg production was not affected by daidzein supplementation.


The hybrids used in this study showed anatomical differences and reacted differently to daidzein supplementation, but if this can be explained by the divergences in ERβ localization noted between the hybrids remains to be clarified.