New research further supports early introduction of eggs
A growing body of evidence supports early introduction of potentially allergenic foods to reduce the risk of allergy to these foods1-4. In fact, professional medical associations recommend cooked egg around 4-6 months to reduce the risk of allergy to egg5,6. However, more research is needed to evaluate the frequency, amount, and form of egg in relation to the development of immune tolerance. New research from State University of New York at Buffalo is helping to answer the questions about timing and frequency of egg consumption during infancy7.
The investigators conducted an analysis of data from the 2005-2007 Infant Feeding Practices Study II, a national study that followed mothers from late pregnancy through their infant’s first year of life and then collected data at 6 years of age. Infants who consumed eggs two or more times per week at 12 months had a lower risk of maternal-reported egg allergy at 6 years compared to babies who consumed eggs less than two times per week or none at all7.
The same research team published data from Project Viva, a U.S. observational study (1999-2002), and found that infants with delayed introduction of eggs after 12 months had an increased risk of egg allergy at both 2 and 12 years of age8. This observation aligns with recommendations for early introduction, including the Dietary Guidelines for Americans: “Potentially allergenic foods (e.g., peanuts, egg, cow milk products, tree nuts, wheat, crustacean shellfish, fish, and soy) should be introduced when other complementary foods are introduced to an infant’s diet2.”
Introduction of eggs into an infant’s diet has the added benefit that eggs provide various amounts of all the nutrients listed by the American Academy of Pediatrics as essential for brain growth9. Eggs also provide 252 mcg of lutein + zeaxanthin10, carotenoids with emerging evidence linking to brain development and health11,12.
More research is needed regarding the optimal amount and form of egg to reduce the risk of egg allergy. However, guidelines around the world are quite consistent in recommending well-cooked eggs in an amount and form that aligns with the baby’s readiness and ability to eat3,4. Well-cooked egg mashed with pureed foods or chopped and served as finger food can be offered to infants when developmentally ready after 4-6 months of age3. For more detail on introducing eggs into an infant’s diet, please see Egg Nutrition Center’s One Bite At A Time Feeding Guide and The What, When, and How of Reducing Food Allergy Risk: A Health Practitioners’ Guide. For recipe inspiration check out Avocado Egg Toast, Vegetable Egg Roll Up and Banana Pumpkin Pancakes.
- 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: https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2020-07/ScientificReport_of_the_2020DietaryGuidelinesAdvisoryCommittee_first-print.pdf.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 2020; Available from: https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2020-12/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans_2020-2025.pdf.
- Schroer, B., et al., Practical Challenges and Considerations for Early Introduction of Potential Food Allergens for Prevention of Food Allergy. J Allergy Clin Immunol Pract, 2021. 9(1): p. 44-56.e1.
- Caffarelli, C., et al., Egg Allergy in Children and Weaning Diet. Nutrients, 2022. 14(8).
- Fleischer, D.M., et al., A Consensus Approach to the Primary Prevention of Food Allergy Through Nutrition: Guidance from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology; American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology; and the Canadian Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice, 2021. 9(1): p. 22-43.e4.
- Halken, S., et al., EAACI guideline: Preventing the development of food allergy in infants and young children (2020 update). Pediatr Allergy Immunol, 2021. 32(5): p. 843-858.
- Wen, X., et al., Frequency of Infant Egg Consumption and Risk of Maternal-Reported Egg Allergy at 6 Years.The Journal of Nutrition, 2022.
- Martone, G.M., et al., Delayed egg introduction beyond infancy and increased egg allergy risk in childhood. J Paediatr Child Health, 2022.
- Schwarzenberg, S.J. and M.K. Georgieff, Advocacy for Improving Nutrition in the First 1000 Days to Support Childhood Development and Adult Health. Pediatrics, 2018. 141(2).
- U.S. Department of Agriculture. FoodData Central SR Legacy — Egg, whole, raw, fresh. 2019 April 1, 2019; Available from: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171287/nutrients.
- Johnson, E.J., Role of lutein and zeaxanthin in visual and cognitive function throughout the lifespan. Nutr Rev, 2014. 72(9): p. 605-12.
- 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.