Friday, October 24, 2014

Sociodemographic Differences and Infant Dietary Patterns

Pediatrics Editorial Board Member Joann Schulte, DO, MPH, shares her expert perspective on a new article from our November issue. To learn more about Dr. Schulte, check out her bio on our Contributors page.

By: Joann Schulte, DO, MPH

Jarred baby food. Photo by Parenting Patch via Wikimedia Commons
You are what you eat, and the diet for infants is supposed to be exclusively breast milk for the first six months of life. But what about the transition to solid foods in the second half of the first year? What dietary patterns are associated with adequate growth and not obesity? This infant feeding topic is an important one in a country where obesity and diabetes are common and emerge early.

New research published this month in Pediatrics (doi: 10.1542/peds.2014-1045) explores infants’ second six months of life and finds the transition to a different diet is important with regards to an infant’s growth, weight gain and obesity. Dr. Xiaozphong Wen and his colleagues at the State University of New York Buffalo did a secondary data analysis of the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Food and Drug Administration’s jointly funded and administered Infant Feeding Practices Study data to examine dietary patterns of infants as their parents started their transition to solid foods.

The Buffalo researchers analyzed a subsample of 1,555 infants followed from 2005 to 2007 and looked at four dietary patterns and growth, identified based on 18 foods typically eaten by US infants. The 18 foods included formula, breast milk, juices, cereal, fruits, vegetables, meats, seafood, peanuts/nut products and sweet foods.

At six months of age, the four patterns were “high sugar/fat/protein”, “infants guideline solids”, “formula”, and “high dairy/ regular cereal.” At 12 months, the four patterns were “high sugar/fat/protein”, “infant guideline solids”, “formula/baby cereal” and “high dairy”.

Mothers supplied the dietary histories, reporting what their infants were fed in the prior week. Nine surveys were done, spanning the transitions in feeding patterns from three months to 12 months.The researchers calculated sex- and age-specific length-for-age Z scores and BMI Z scores to examine infants’ growth and a correlation with each diet.

At six months of age, “high sugar/fat/protein” and “high dairy/regular cereal” were associated with infants being shorter and fatter. The authors concluded that the “infant guideline solids” with breastfeeding was a promising, healthy diet for infants.

The study is an important one because it provides information that can guide physicians and parents in selecting a diet that will help children grow without being coming obese. The right diets can shape children’s health as adults and offer a way to control diabetes and other conditions related to obesity.

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