Location: Obesity and Metabolism Research Unit
Title: Global dietary patterns and diets in childhood: implications for health outcomes Author
Submitted to: Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: January 21, 2012
Publication Date: January 21, 2013
Citation: Allen, L.H. 2013. Global dietary patterns and diets in childhood: implications for health outcomes. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism. 61 (suppl. 1):29-37. Interpretive Summary: Recommendations for feeding children are made by many international and national organizations, but for several reasons these may not be implemented adequately. One clear recommendation is to breastfeed infants exclusively for the first six months of life but this advice is not followed well for about one third of infants. From the age of 6 months infants need to continue breastfeeding but their caretaker needs to gradually add foods from other sources. In developing countries the foods available or affordable for complementary feeding tend to be cereals and legumes primarily, with inadequate amounts of animal source foods such as milk, eggs, fish or meats. Diets without these animal source foods fall far short of meeting the vitamin and mineral requirements of infants and young children. Studies testing the supplementation of children with these foods showed that they can improve growth and development, with milk and meat having different effects. Where caretakers cannot add adequate amounts of animal source foods to their young child’s diet alternative relatively affordable strategies have been developed, including adding micronutrient powders to the child’s usual diet, or giving the child lipid-based nutrient supplements
Technical Abstract: This article provides an overview of child feeding recommendations and how these relate to actual practice and dietary adequacy, primarily in developing countries. From birth to 6 months, recommendations focus on optimal breastfeeding practices, although these are still suboptimal in about one third of infants in developing countries. From 6 months of age, breast milk can no longer meet all the nutrient requirements of the child, so from 6 months through at least 24 months, the recommendation is to continue breastfeeding but gradually introduce complementary foods. In poorer populations, the available foods for complementary feeding are primarily cereals and legumes, to which small amounts of fruits and vegetables are added, and even less animal source foods. Based on intake data from infants and preschoolers, it is evident that usual diets typically fall far short of supplying micronutrient needs. By adding more fruits, vegetables, and animal source foods the diet can be improved. Intervention studies show that increasing animal source food intake improves growth, muscle mass, and cognitive function of school children. Milk and dairy product intakes are correlated with greater child growth in many studies, even in industrialized countries. However, for many families, substantially improving children's diets by providing higher quality foods is often financially unrealistic. Newer approaches to home fortification of children's foods using micronutrient powders or lipid-based nutrient supplements hold great potential to prevent micronutrient deficiencies at reasonable cost, thus preventing the adverse consequences of these deficiencies for child development.