(RxWiki News) A recent study published in the journal Nutrition & Dietetics found that infants as young as one-month old had already been introduced to high fat, salty and sugary foods, including cookies, ice-cream and soft drinks. Of the infants studied, those who started cereal solids earlier and those with two or more siblings were more likely to have eaten junk food by their first birthday.
“Almost one in four mothers had introduced fruit juice, biscuits [cookies] and cakes to their infants by six months of age,” said lead researcher Jane Scott, who for 12 months conducted regular phone interviews with 587 women from maternity hospitals in Perth, Australia.
Does it matter what babies eat?
Scott said eating habits developed early in life generally continue throughout a person’s lifetime, making children who eat high-fat, -sugar and –salt content food susceptible to obesity and diseases like type-2 diabetes at a much younger age.
“An overweight child is much more likely to become an overweight adult,” said Scott, an associate professor at the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at Flinders University.
Health experts recommend breastfeeding as an infant’s sole source of nutrition until six months of age. According to womenshealth.gov, breast milk contains disease-fighting antibodies that protect infants from several illnesses, including respiratory infections, atopic dermatitis (a certain skin rash), asthma and childhood leukemia, among others. Breastfeeding has also been shown to lower occurrences of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
To that end, Scott has called for better support and promotion of breastfeeding.
“Infants and children are dependent on adults to choose the foods that will be best for them,” Scott said. “Getting off to the right start is crucial.”
Up to 20 per cent of children aged two to three years are overweight or obese, according to a recent Australia-wide survey, pointing to poor nutrition choices that begin in early childhood.
“Parents need specific, evidence-based recommendations on what food and drinks are suitable for newborn babies, similar to the guidelines which are available for children older than five,” said Clare Collins, Dietitians Association of Australia spokesperson and obesity expert. “We need ways to make it easier for parents to feed their children right.”