Perhaps the days of the incredible egg are back. A new study found that babies who consume eggs on a frequent basis are healthier, grow faster and are far less likely to experience stunting.
In the latest egg experiment, researchers from Washington University in St. Louis performed a randomized, controlled study on about 160 children in Ecuador between the ages of 6 to 9 months. About half of the children consumed one egg per day for six months, while the other half abstained from eggs entirely.
After six months, the researchers discovered that the egg-eaters scored higher on two important growth-based measurements — the length-for-age score and the weight-for-age score.
Importantly, the infants who consumed eggs were 47 percent less likely to experience stunting, a condition of “impaired growth and development” that can be attributed to factors such as poor nutrition, infections and limited psychosocial involvement.
“Eggs can be affordable and easily accessible,” said lead author Lora Iannotti, associate professor at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.
“They are also a good source of nutrients for growth and development in young children,” she said. “Eggs have the potential to contribute to reduced-growth stunting around the world.”
The researchers also found that the egg-consuming group was 74 percent less likely to be underweight than the group that refrained from eating eggs.
“I think it’s an exciting study; a simple intervention had a large impact on a factor [stunting] which has been recalcitrant to many, many other public health interventions,” Jean Humphrey, a researcher at Johns Hopkins, told Newsweek.
As the researchers note, eggs are veritable powerhouses of nutrition. According to the American Egg Board, eggs “contain, in varying amounts, almost every essential vitamin and mineral needed by humans as well as several other beneficial food components.”
Other studies have backed up the egg-as-nutritious-food story. “They are relatively low in calories and saturated fat, and rich in protein, vitamins, minerals and other healthy nutrients like lutein and zeaxanthin, which are good for the eyes, and choline, which is needed by nerves and the brain,” notes a report from Harvard Health.
For the current study, the researchers didn’t expect to see such a consistent and considerable impact from more egg consumption.
“We were surprised by just how effective this intervention proved to be,” Iannotti said. “The size of the effect was 0.63 compared to the 0.39 global average.” The researchers also noted that daily egg consumption didn’t lead to any unintended side effects.
“Our study carefully monitored allergic reactions to eggs, yet no incidents were observed or reported by caregivers during the weekly home visits,” Iannotti said. “Eggs seem to be a viable and recommended source of nutrition for children in developing countries.”
If you’re interested in adding more eggs to your diet — or to your children’s diet — the BBC has a rundown of nutrition facts and recipe suggestions. As you explore, you’ll find that you can add eggs to everything from pasta to fried rice.
The study appeared in the journal Pediatrics.
Richard Scott is a health care reporter focusing on health policy and public health. Richard keeps tabs on national health trends from his Philadelphia location and is an active member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.