Posts in Author: Jen Houchins, PhD, RD
As mandated by the Agricultural Act of 2014, the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) will include dietary guidance for infants and toddlers from birth to 24 months of age, as well as pregnant women. Scientific questions being examined by the current DGA Advisory Committee include recommendations for complementary foods and beverages, dietary patterns, as well as the mother’s diet during pregnancy. Evaluation of how specific foods help to build healthy dietary patterns is a component of these reviews. Recent evidence supports that eggs are a nutrient-dense component of early eating patterns, and introducing eggs in the first year of life (>4 months) may reduce the risk of developing a food allergy to eggs.
Previous recommendations from health organizations1 included guidance to avoid early introduction of eggs. However, more recent data show that introduction of eggs after four to six months does not increase the risk of allergy. A recent USDA/Department of Health and Human Services literature review evaluated complementary foods in relation to food allergy. Twenty-eight studies that examined consumption of eggs as a complementary food in relation to development of any atopic disease was one component of this extensive review.2 The conclusion statement summarized, “Moderate evidence suggests that introducing egg in the first year of life (>4 months of age) may reduce risk of food allergy to egg.” Although more research is needed to fill gaps related to complementary foods and beverages and allergy, these most recent data support that eggs should not be avoided once a child is developmentally ready to eat them.
Another recent analysis found that consumption of eggs in infants 6-24 months of age is associated with intake of several nutrients.3 Based on National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2001-2012 data, egg consumption in infants 6-24 months of age was linked with higher energy, protein, choline, lutein + zeaxanthin, α-linolenic acid, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), vitamin B12, phosphorus, and selenium. Infants who ate eggs also consumed higher levels of total fat, monounsaturated fat, saturated fat, and sodium, and lower amounts of total sugar compared to infants who did not eat eggs. Further, egg consumption in infants was linked to longer recumbent length compared to non-consumers and not associated with body weight.
These observations build on the evidence that the nutrients in eggs are important for growing children. Emerging evidence shows that both choline and lutein are critical for brain and neurological development during the first 1000 days post-conception,4 and a recent paper found it is difficult to achieve the Adequate Intake for choline without eating eggs or taking a dietary supplement.5 These nutrient intake observations in infants also demonstrate that a total-diet approach is important. Eggs are one food within healthy dietary patterns and there is opportunity to offer children other nutrient-dense foods in combination with eggs to meet all nutrient needs. Please see our First 1000 Days toolkit for more information.
- Zeiger, R.S., Food allergen avoidance in the prevention of food allergy in infants and children. Pediatrics, 2003. 111(6 Pt 3): p. 1662-71.
- Obbagy, J.E., et al., Complementary feeding and food allergy, atopic dermatitis/eczema, asthma, and allergic rhinitis: a systematic review. Am J Clin Nutr, 2019. 109(Supplement_7): p. 890s-934s.
- Papanikolaou, Y. and V.L. Fulgoni, 3rd, Egg Consumption in Infants is Associated with Longer Recumbent Length and Greater Intake of Several Nutrients Essential in Growth and Development. Nutrients, 2018. 10(6).
- Wallace, T.C., A Comprehensive Review of Eggs, Choline, and Lutein on Cognition Across the Life-span. J Am Coll Nutr, 2018. 37(4): p. 269-285.
- Wallace, T.C. and V.L. Fulgoni, Usual Choline Intakes Are Associated with Egg and Protein Food Consumption in the United States. Nutrients, 2017. 9(8).