According to official guidelines, an Australia-wide feeding study of small children, the first of its kind, has found that virtually all babies and a quarter of toddlers are not getting enough iron.
The study, conducted by the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), looked at the diets of Australian children aged six months to two years.
The research was based on interviews with 1,100 parents “who documented their children’s diets”.
The report’s findings were largely positive: most children who participated in the survey “get the right amount of most nutrients.”
But the researchers said, “there was one glaring problem.”
dr. Merryn Netting, co-author of the study and a researcher at SAHMRI’s Child Nutrition Research Centre said: “We found that 90 percent of babies aged 6-12 months consumed much less iron per day than the recommended amount.
“Not getting enough iron is a concern as iron deficiency negatively affects overall development. It can also cause fatigue, loss of appetite, and poor growth, and lead to anemia, a condition that blocks oxygen in the body.” decreases.”
Dr. Netting told news gear that “in clinical practice, we see a lot of children with iron deficiency anemia if they don’t get their early feedings right”.
She said the babies could present as “pale and listless or irritable,” and pediatricians would then screen for a deficiency in the iron stored in the body.
But are the guidelines correct?
Dr. Netting said babies need a low dose of 0.2 mg of iron in their diet in their first six months. This is because they are born with iron stored in their bodies.
This store starts to run low after six months when the baby is introduced to solids (but no earlier than four months).
“It doesn’t matter what food you start your child with as long as it’s iron-rich,” she said.
Guidelines from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommend that infants consume 7 mg of iron daily.
The researchers say that to achieve this amount of iron, babies need to eat 300 grams of beef or 400 grams of fortified grains each day — which is a lot of food for a small person: 300 grams of meat is a night out for adults.
Dr. Netting agreed but said the daily requirement was usually met by eating various foods, including meats, green vegetables, iron-fortified cereals, and breast milk or milk formula.
Dr. However, Netting said it is “possible that the recommended iron intake has been higher than necessary and needs to be revised”.
She said this could not be confirmed: “without further research with a larger group of infants”.
“We have no data on bl levels or anemia in this data oup, and we need it urgently. If iron levels are low, we may need to consider giving babies iron supplements.”
Toddlers have a taste for salt.
The study also found that about a third of toddlers consume too much salt due to the Australian diet containing too many highly processed foods.
Dr. Netting said, “Too much salt usually comes from eating too many processed foods. Children will develop a taste for salty foods, which are often unhealthy. This can contribute to bad eating habits down the road, as well as high blood pressure.”
Meanwhile, breastfeeding rates exceeded expectations.
The report found that 75 percent of mothers breastfed at six months and 50 percent at 12 months.
“It’s really nice to see so many mothers opting for breast milk with all the added nutrients it provides rather than reaching for baby food,” said Dr. netting.