Egg Yolks Good Choice for Weaning Babies

Reviewed by Charlotte E. Grayson Mathis, MD


May 24, 2002 -- Moms and dads of weaning infants may want to incorporate egg yolks into their babies' diet. This may be an easy and practical way to provide iron and other much-needed nutrients that may become depleted during this time.


Both breastfed and formula-fed infants face several important nutritional challenges as they approach weaning age of 4 to 6 months. For example, since breast milk is a good source of iron, iron-rich weaning foods are needed to prevent iron deficiency.


Formula-fed infants may experience a deficiency of a fatty acid known as DHA, which is vital to the growth and development of the brain. The FDA recently approved the addition of DHA to infant formulas in the U.S. to avoid this problem. Breastfeeding provides sufficient DHA. However, doctors still don't know if weaning foods high in fatty acids such as DHA are important for continued development.


Egg yolks are rich sources of both iron and DHA and have a soft texture that is suitable for this age group. Scientists are also studying the benefits of egg yolks that are fortified with extra fatty acids (enriched egg yolks.) However, many parents may be concerned about the cholesterol content of egg yolks.


In this study, published in the June 2002 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers compared the nutritional effects of feeding weaning infants regular egg yolks, enriched egg yolks, or an otherwise normal diet. Parents were told to feed their child four egg yolks per week and were given a recipe booklet.


Blood samples were taken from the infants at 6 and 12 months of age to measure DHA levels, iron status, and blood cholesterol levels.


At the end of the study, both breastfed and formula-fed infants who consumed the egg yolks had improved iron levels when compared with the infants who did not get the egg yolks. In addition, those infants who got the egg yolks enriched with extra fatty acids had 30%-40% greater DHA levels than those fed regular egg yolks.


Although an egg yolk typically contains about 200 mg of cholesterol and 6 mg of fat, researchers say egg yolk supplementation in these infants did not have any significant effect on blood cholesterol levels.


Study author Maria Makrides of Flinders University of South Australia and colleagues say a major finding of this study was that infants who ate the enriched yolks had DHA levels "that were not significantly different from those of the breast-fed infants."


Therefore, the authors write, "the results of our trial indicate that it is possible and practical for weaning infants to consume [less than or equal to] 4 egg yolks/wk without effects on the intake of other foods such as cereals and meats."


Since cooked egg yolks are soft food, infants can easily eat them when they are mashed up.-->