Whole egg consumption promotes growth and gut microbiota in young children - Thailand RCT
35 weeks of whole eggs consumption led to a significant increase in the weight and height difference between the whole eggs group and controlled group, according to data published in nutrients.
Thai researchers also noted an increased level of Bifidobacterium, a health-promoting bacteria found in stomach and intestines to aid digestion, by 1.28-fold in the whole eggs group. The level of Lachnospira, another health-promoting bacteria targeting the immune system, was also significantly higher after whole eggs consumption.
“We confirmed that this had a positive biological impact on adolescent growth, particularly improving stunting and underweight. This intervention was associated with improved biomarkers, including lipoproteins, microbiota, and healthy dietary patterns in children,” they wrote.
Additionally, the nutritional benefits that come with whole egg consumption was similarly elicited in previous studies done in the United States, Ecuador, and western Kenya.
Malnutrition remains a widespread problem in South East Asia, and the researchers wanted to investigate the impact of eggs consumption on intake of critical nutrients and high-quality protein.
“Eggs are a common food around the world that provides approximately 150 kcal/100 g, >50% of adequate intake of critical micronutrients, and high-quality protein, and are more affordable than other animal-derived foods.
“Recent evidence suggests that the early introduction of one egg per day for six months markedly improved growth in young children. Eggs have been shown to improve growth, as well as reduce wasting and acute malnutrition,” the researchers explained further.
The cluster randomized controlled trial recruited 589 students, aged 8 to 14 years, from six primary schools in Thailand identified to have a prevalent problem of malnutrition based on the weight-for-age criteria.
All participants were randomly assigned to either the whole egg group where they consumed 10 whole chicken eggs every week, or protein substitute where they consumed a yolk-free egg substitute equivalent to 10 eggs every week, or the control group.
The interventions were delivered to the classrooms during the school lunch times, and all schools had the same menu. The whole egg group received a cycle menu of hard-boiled whole eggs, scrambled eggs, stewed eggs, omelettes, etc. The protein substitute group consumed hard-boiled egg whites or chicken sausages. The control group received standard school lunches.
In addition, a recall assessment done with all participants during the study period to monitor their energy and nutrient intakes from the intervention. To assess the impact of the intervention, the researchers had taken their anthropometric measurements, blood tests and gut microbiota analyses. These measurements were taken at baseline, at 14 weeks, and at 35 weeks.
What eggs do for microbiome?
Malnutrition has been linked to intestinal dysbiosis – an imbalance of bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. Changes in the gut microbiota can compromise on the ability process foods and intake of nutrients.
However, the researchers noted the lack of literature justifying the impact of egg consumption in this regard:
“For example, the number of species in the Proteobacteria phylum increases in malnourished infants, while the number of species in the phyla Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus decreases. However, recent short-term studies in people revealed that the microbiota is not modified after 4 weeks of egg consumption.
“Liu et al. showed in a novel but extensive 2-week intervention that it altered vascular function, namely flow-mediated dilation, brachial-ankle pulse wave velocity, and gut microbial function; yet the clear mechanism remains elucidated.”
While the existing study has shown increased levels for certain beneficial bacteria, the paper had emphasised the need for further studies to be conducted to investigate the underlying mechanisms of actions of egg consumption on gut microbiota and growth:
“Although the short-term benefits of egg supplementation may have been demonstrated, there is considerable controversy regarding its long-term consequences and the underlying mechanism by which egg consumption modifies dysbiosis,” the researchers concluded.
“Prolonged Egg Supplement Advances Growing Child’s Growth and Gut Microbiota”
Authors: Suta, S., et al.