Bird's Nest is the nutrient-rich salivary secretion of swiftlets. This gel secretion is an integral component to building the swiftlet nests, which are found in dangerous and highly inaccessible locations like steep cliffs, overhanging crags and deep caves.
Out of more than 30 species of swiflets, only 2 species of the genus Aerodramus and 1 of the genus Collocalia make edible saliva nest. Aerodramus fuciphaga is the swiftlet that produces the highest quality of edible Bird’s Nest, because its nests are white and clean with minimum feathers. It is found only in Southeast Asia. Tedious process of cleaning approximately 10 nests takes approximately 8h by a person1.
The major components of EBN are its glycoproteins, carbohydrates and trace elements. Scientific findings by the researchers in Chinese University of Hong Kong discovered that epidermal growth factor (EGF) is present in EBN. They demonstrated an epidermal growth factor (EGF)-like activity in aqueous extract of edible bird’s nest that stimulated the DNA synthesis in 3T3 fibroblast in a dose dependent manner in vitro2. EGF is a low-MW polypeptide, which stimulates cell growth and proliferation, demonstrating properties of skin and tissue repair.
Major carbohydrates consist of sialic acid (9%), N-acetylgalactosamine (galNAc) (7.2%), N-acetylglucosamine (glcNAc) (5.3%), galactose (16.9%) and fucose (0.7%). There had been studies showing that sialic acid aids in moderating the immune system receptors, preventing entry of bacteria and viruses. The carbohydrate also benefits the brain development of infants3. The other carbohydrate components present demonstrate important roles in signal transduction in cellular communication.
The most abundant amino acids are serine, threonine, aspartic acid, glutamic acid, proline, and valine1, 4.
Aspartic acid- aids in production of immunoglobulins and antibodies, and helps fight against fatigue.
Glutamic acid- aids in the metabolism of sugars and fatty acids.
Proline- Improves skin texture by aiding production of collagen. It reacts with Vitamin C to form healthy connective tissue.
Serine- aids in the production of immunoglobulins and antibodies. A natural moisturizing agent.
Threonine- Important for the formation of collagen and elastin
Valine- Important in muscle metabolism and tissue repair
1. MF Marcone. Characterization of the edible birds’ nest- the “Caviar of the East”. Food Research Intl 2005, 38; 1125-1134
2. YC Kong, WM Keung et al. Evidence that epidermal growth factor is present in swiftlet’s (Collocalia) nest. Comparative Biochem and Physiology Pt B: Comparative Biochem 1987, 87(2): 221-226
3. AA Rashed, WM Wan Nazaimoon. Effect of Edible Bird’s Nest on Caco-2 Cell Proliferation. J Food Tech 2010, 8(3); 126-130
4. RH Kathan, DI Weeks. Structure studies of collocalia mucoid ☆: I. Carbohydrate and amino acid composition. Arch Biochem and Biophysics 1969, 134(2): 572-576