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Eggs and malnutrition

While we in the developed world obsess about egg allergy and when infants should first receive egg, in low and middle income countries (LMIC) the issues are rather different. Hen’s eggs are a readily accessible and highly nutritious food, and observational studies have suggested a benefit in young infants. Now the first randomised trial gives stronger evidence of this (Ianotti L et al. Pediatrics 2017. doi: 10.1542/peds.2016-3459). In Cotopaxi Province, Ecuador, around 160 children aged 6 to 9 months were randomised. This is an impoverished area and their baseline nutritional status was poor: 38% were stunted. The intervention group received one egg per day for 6 months. Dietary intake was closely monitored, and compliance was good.

The egg group showed increases compared with controls in both length (length-for-age z score increase 0.63 [95% CI 0.4 to 0.9; p<0.001]), and weight (weight-for-age z score increase 0.61 [95% CI 0.5 to 0.8; p<0.001]). Prevalence of stunting was reduced by 47% and of underweight by 74%. Interestingly, the egg group also showed a relative decrease in intake of ‘unhealthy’ foods high in sugar. And none of the egg group showed any signs …

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