eggs
June 7, 2017

Eggs help your children grow big and strong, study finds

All kinds of weird and not-always-wonderful things have been tried to help people grow taller, but the fact is that after the first two years of life stunting is mostly irreversible. Regularly eating eggs during those critical years has been shown to children grow bigger than they would otherwise.

Poor nutrition and childhood health problems are major causes of stunting - the term for when a child is too short for their age - and the World Health Organization estimates that the problem affects 155 million children under the age of five. Most live in poorer countries.

Researchers working in Ecuador have found that eating an egg a day greatly helps undernourished children to grow.

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, was conducted by Lora Iannotti and colleagues who worked with children age six to nine months in the rural highlands of Ecuador.

Eighty children were given free eggs, one per day for six months, while the same number of control group participants were monitored for comparison. Although the control group ate some eggs, they did not eat them on a consistent basis.

The researchers paid regular visits to families to check on participation and to watch for allergies.

Relatively more of the group eating eggs were considered short for their age at the start of the study, but by the end stunting had fallen a massive 47 percent compared to the control group.

Iannotti said: "We were surprised by just how effective this intervention proved to be. And what's great is it's very affordable and accessible for populations that are especially vulnerable to hidden hunger or nutritional deficiency."

She added: "Eggs contain a combination of nutrients, which we think is important."

Combining eggs and breastfeeding

It appears not to matter what way the eggs are cooked - fried, scrambled, boiled or omelet - so long as they are cooked well to avoid infection risk.

Prof Mary Fewtrell, nutrition lead at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: "In a way, it is surprising that more research has not been conducted using egg in this situation - although I know that in some cultures, parents do not necessarily find egg to be an acceptable early food mainly because of concerns about allergy.

"Egg is a good nutritious complementary food that can be introduced as part of a varied diet once the mother decides to start complementary feeding - never before four months."

Exclusively breastfeeding infants for the first six months of life is recommended by the World Health Organization for the best chance of healthy growth and development.

Breastfeeding can then continue until two years or more, with healthy foods being taken alongside it. It is this six month to two-year span in which eggs are most useful.

The British Nutrition Foundation advised: "While eggs are a nutritious food to include, it's very important that young children have a variety of foods in their diets. Not only is this necessary to get all the vitamins and minerals they need, but also to allow them to become familiar with a wide range of tastes and textures.

"A range of protein-rich foods should be provided when feeding young children, which can include eggs but can also feature beans, pulses, fish, especially oily fish, meat and dairy products."

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