This past July, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee released their Scientific Report1 which will serve to inform the development of the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans due out at the end of this year. The Committee examined the latest nutrition science using a life-stage approach, making dietary recommendations for Americans of all ages. Importantly, for the first time in the history of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, these recommendations will include guidance for children from birth to 2 years of age.
Contained within the Scientific Report were several important conclusions regarding the role of eggs in healthy diets across the lifespan. The Committee highlighted science supporting eggs as a fundamental first food for infants and toddlers. Eggs provide several nutrients noted as important during this time of rapid brain development including high-quality protein, choline, and iodine. The Committee’s thorough review of the science recognized eggs’ role in providing these critical nutrients, including eggs in recommendations from the very moment infants are ready for solid foods.
Choline is under-consumed by most Americans, but the Committee noted that this poses special challenges for infants, toddlers, and pregnant women. A recent survey commissioned by ENC showed low levels of awareness of choline among both new and expecting mothers and the health professionals who care for them. Over 70% of these moms and over 40% of OBGYNs and pediatricians were unfamiliar with choline. With less than 10% of pregnant women meeting the Adequate Intake, this lack of knowledge represents a barrier to adequate choline consumption.2 Importantly, in our survey dietitians had almost 90% awareness of choline. Clearly, dietitians should play an important role in closing this knowledge gap.
Related, the Scientific Report highlighted iodine as a nutrient of public health concern for pregnant women and as a nutrient important for infant brain development. Eggs are an excellent source of iodine, containing 20% of the Daily Value. As an excellent source of both choline and iodine, new and expecting moms would benefit greatly from education on the importance of including eggs in their diets to achieve recommendations and support brain development.
The Scientific Report also recommended early introduction of eggs to reduce the risk of egg allergy. This conclusion aligns with previous recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Given older, contradictory guidance to avoid early introduction of allergens, it will be especially important to provide clear guidance and education on this new recommendation.
The Scientific Report recognized that eggs can help Americans meet nutrient needs at all ages and move towards achieving healthier diet patterns. In children, the Committee identified the diet quality benefits if energy were to be redistributed from added sugars to the Protein Foods group – highlighting eggs as a preferred nutrient-dense option. In pre-teens and adolescents – particularly girls – eggs were encouraged for their protein and choline content. Older adults were noted for poor nutritional status related to protein and vitamin B12, two nutrients for which eggs provide greater than 10% of the Daily Value. Eggs also were identified as one of the few natural food sources of vitamin D, a nutrient of public health concern for all Americans.
The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Scientific Report represents a tremendous step forward in our understanding of the science on healthy eating. We look forward to the release of the Dietary Guidelines later this year which will provide the latest information to nutrition and health professionals about how to build healthy diets and how eggs, as a nutrient-dense food, contribute to health and wellbeing at every age and life stage in a variety of ways.