An egg a day may help child development   

An egg a day may help child development  

A six-month study conducted in Ecuador suggests that eating an egg per day could help undernourished children go to a healthy height.

The study found that, regardless of how they were prepared, eggs seemed to give a boost to infant height.

Researches in the journal Pediatrics believe that this could represent a low-cost way to prevent stunting.

The first two years of life are vital in terms of development and growth, with any stunting that occurs usually irreversible.

One of the major causes of stunting is poor nutrition, with the other major factors being infections and illnesses.

Figures from the World Health Organization say that 155 million children under the age of five are stunted, which means too short for their age.

The vast majority of these children live in low- and middle-income nations and health experts have long been trying to find a solution to this issue.

A field experiment was set up by Lora Iannotti and her colleagues in rural Ecuador, in which they gave children aged between six- and nine-months old eggs to see if this would aid development.

Half of the 160 children involved in the randomised trial were given an egg per day over a period of six months, with the others being monitored for comparative purposes.

The children’s families were visited by the researchers on a weekly basis to ensure that the study plan was being conformed to, as well as to check for problems or side-effects of the study.

The results found that stunting was much less common in children who had been part of the egg treatment group; stunting was found to be 47 per cent less common than in the non-egg group, despite the fact that a larger proportion of the egg-fed group had been considered short for their age when the study began.

A number of the children in the control groups were fed eggs, but with nowhere near the regularity of the treatment group.

Lead researcher Ms 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 said eggs were great food for young children with small stomachs.

“Eggs contain a combination of nutrients, which we think is important.”

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.”

She said eggs should always be well cooked to avoid any potential infection risk.

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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