When it comes to having a positive effect on physical growth, two eggs are better than one, and one egg is better than no source of protein and nutrients critical to growth and development, according to a pilot study among Ugandan children.

The student was conducted by University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture researchers. Published in the June edition of the journal “Food & Nutrition Research,” it focused on three schools in the rural Kitgum District of northern Uganda. (See: http://bit.ly/2r5ar74 )

The study was supported by a grant from the Egg Nutrition Center/American Egg Board.

Jamie Baum, assistant professor of nutrition for the U of A System Division of Agriculture, said the study explored the effects of egg supplementation on growth in children living in areas linked to poverty, poor diet quality and little or no intake of animal source foods.

“Countries in sub-Saharan Africa have a high prevalence of children that are underweight with significant stunting of growth,” she said.

Micronutrients – the vitamins and minerals most Americans take for granted in their meals – are critical to physical and cognitive development.

The researchers chose eggs as a focus. Researchers were Baum, Jefferson Miller, professor of agricultural communications and technology, for the Division of Agriculture and the Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences; and Brianna Gaines, a former student who is now a food technologist with Russell Stover Foods.

“Eggs are an inexpensive source of 13 essential micronutrients and a good source of high-quality protein, which makes them an ideal candidate for implementation into a school feeding program,” researchers said.

The school children, between ages 6 and 8, were provided with hard-boiled eggs five days a week and their growth was tracked by measuring height, weight, mid-upper arm circumference and tricep skinfold thickness.

The study found that all students grew in both height and weight, but children who had two eggs a day had significantly higher growth at the end of six months than those who had no eggs or one egg.

For example, boys who had no eggs, grew in height an average of 1.7 centimeters. Those with one egg grew 2.5 centimeters while those with two eggs grew 3.4 centimeters. Girls in the no-egg group grew an average of 2.9 centimeters, the one-egg group grew 2.4 centimeters, while the two-egg group grew 3.4 centimeters.

“Despite limitations to this pilot study, we were able to demonstrate that two eggs, given as a supplement to their diet five days a week, improved the parameters of growth in school-aged children participating in school feeding programs in rural Uganda,” Baum said. “However, further research is needed to determine the effects of egg supplementation on nutrient status and cognitive development, and to determine the feasibility of implementing egg supplementation into school feeding programs for an extended time.”

Baum is part of the Institute of Food Science and Engineering, Center for Human Nutrition in the Department of Food Science at both the Division of Agriculture and the Bumpers College.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without discrimination.

— Mary Hightower is director of communication services for the U of A Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service.