An egg a day might help undernourished young children grow to a healthy height, according to a six-month study in Ecuador. Whether soft or hard-boiled, fried or whisked into an omelette, eggs appeared to give infants a boost.
It could be a cheap way to prevent stunting, say researchers in the journal Pediatrics.
The first two years of life are critical for growth and development – any stunting is largely irreversible.
Poor nutrition is a major cause of stunting, along with childhood infections and illnesses.
According to the World Health Organization, 155 million children under the age of five are stunted (too short for their age).
Most live in low- and middle-income countries and health experts have been looking at ways to tackle the issue.
Only half of the 160 youngsters who took part in the randomised trial were fed an egg a day for six months – the others were monitored for comparison.
The researchers visited the children’s families every week to make sure they were sticking to the study plan and to check for any problems or side-effects, including egg allergy.
Stunting was far less common among the egg treatment group by the end of the study – the prevalence was 47% less than in the non-egg group, even though relatively more of these egg-fed infants were considered short for their age at the start of the study.
Some of the children in the control group did eat eggs, but nowhere near as many as the treatment group.
Lead researcher Ms Iannotti said: “We were surprised by just how effective this intervention proved to be.
“And what’s great is it’s very affordable and accessible for populations that are especially vulnerable to hidden hunger or nutritional deficiency.”
She said eggs were great food for young children with small stomachs.
“Eggs contain a combination of nutrients, which we think is important.”