New Research: Eggs can Help Address Malnutrition in U.S. Children

New Research: Eggs can Help Address Malnutrition in U.S. Children

Jen Houchins, PhD, RD


Key Takeaways:

  • Eggs can play an important role during early life to help address malnutrition – including undernutrition, overweight, obesity and inadequate consumption of vitamins and minerals – among U.S. children
  • Earlier introduction of eggs is linked with lower adiposity measures in early adolescent females and is also associated with a reduced risk of stunting in U.S. children.
  • Including eggs in the diets of U.S. children and adolescents are a valuable source of many nutrients that are often under-consumed, such as vitamin D, vitamin A, protein and choline.

Malnutrition can appear in different forms, including undernutrition (wasting, stunting, underweight), inadequate consumption of vitamins and minerals, overweight, obesity, and resulting diet-related chronic diseases.1  Childhood obesity is a significant health problem in the United States, with 1 in 5 children and adolescents affected.2  On the other hand, the overall prevalence of stunting (low height-for-age) and wasting (low weight-for-age) in the U.S. is low when compared to the rest of the world, at 2.9% and 0.2%, respectively, among American children under five years of age,3,4  However, stunting prevalence is higher among Hispanic children aged 2-19 years (6.1%) as compared to Non-Hispanic White children (2.6%).3,5  New data from State University of New York at Buffalo indicate eggs can play an important role during early life to help address multiple forms of malnutrition among U.S. children.

An investigation of data from mother-child pairs in Project Viva, a U.S. observational study (1999-2002) found that introducing eggs to infants by 12 months is linked to lower measures of adiposity in early adolescent (12-13 year old) females.6  These associations were not observed for males, and no associations were found between age of egg introduction and risk of obesity in males or females.  The authors report, “The underlying reasons and potential long-term implications for this seemingly contrasting sex response is unclear, however, it is known that the deposition pattern and function of adipose tissue differs between males and females.6” 

The same research team found a benefit for early introduction of eggs to reduce the risk of stunting.  In an analysis of the Infant Feeding Practices Study II, later introduction of eggs was associated with a lower mean weight-for-height (length) z-score among female infants at 12 months.  Later introduction of eggs was also linked with a lower average height-for-age z-score and higher risk of stunting in the follow-up of 6-year-old children.3  These data are consistent with a previous analysis of U.S. children (NHANES 2001-2012) that found egg consumption in infants is associated with longer recumbent length when compared to infants who do not consume eggs.7

Besides growth, inadequate consumption of select nutrients is common among U.S. children and adolescents. Calcium, vitamin D, potassium, and dietary fiber are nutrients of public health concern.  Vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, magnesium, and choline are also under-consumed, and on average, adolescent girls do not get enough protein.8,9 Eggs provide a meaningful amount of vitamin D (6% Daily Value (DV)), vitamin A (8% DV), protein (12% DV), and choline (25% DV).  Eggs are a particularly valuable food source of choline for Americans, with egg consumers having almost double the choline intake of non-consumers7,10,11, and “…it is extremely difficult to achieve the Adequate Intake for choline without consuming eggs or taking a dietary supplement.10

Early life is a critical period of time for both neurocognitive development and physical growth.9 While the value of eggs and the nutrients in eggs for early life nutrition and neurocognitive development has been a highlight of recent egg-related research,12,13 eating eggs early in life may also support healthy physical growth.  Overall, these new data suggest a potential advantage of including eggs as part of early complementary feeding to address different forms of malnutrition that are observed in U.S. children.

  1. World Health Organization. Malnutrition. 2021; Available from:

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Childhood Overweight & Obesity. 2022; Available from:

  3. Mi, B., et al., Infant age at egg introduction and malnutrition-related child growth in the United States. Matern Child Nutr, 2022. 18(4): p. e13390.

  4. UNICEF. Malnutrition in children. 2021; Available from:

  5. Iriart, C., et al., Obesity and malnutrition among Hispanic children in the United States: double burden on health inequities. Rev Panam Salud Publica, 2013. 34(4): p. 235-43.

  6. Choudhary, D., et al., Egg Introduction during Infancy is Associated with Lower Fat Mass Index in Females at Early Adolescence. The Journal of Nutrition, 2022.

  7. 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).

  8. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. Scientific Report of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee: Advisory Report to the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Health and Human Services. 2020; Available from:

  9. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 2020; Available from:

  10. 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).

  11. Papanikolaou, Y. and V.L. Fulgoni, 3rd, Egg Consumption in U.S. Children is Associated with Greater Daily Nutrient Intakes, including Protein, Lutein + Zeaxanthin, Choline, alpha-Linolenic Acid, and Docosahexanoic Acid. Nutrients, 2019. 11(5).

  12. Christifano, D.N., et al., Intake of eggs, choline, lutein, zeaxanthin, and DHA during pregnancy and their relationship to fetal neurodevelopment. Nutr Neurosci, 2022: p. 1-7.

  13. 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.

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