28 Jun Animal-sourced foods complimentary in 6 – 24-month-old children
Childhood nutrition is known to be critical to health and development. A recent review has investigated the research on animal-source foods as complementary foods in the diets of growing children. Their conclusions support the use of such foods, especially for those vulnerable to undernutrition.
Symptoms of malnutrition in a child can include reduced growth rates or not putting on weight at the expected rate. According to the World Health Organisation, around 45% of deaths among children under 5 years of age are linked to undernutrition and mostly occur in low- and middle-income countries.
Undernourished children have weaker immune systems and are thus more susceptible to infections and illnesses. The consequences of which, directly and indirectly, cost an individual, families, and nations around the world. In 2013 the cost of undernutrition was estimated at US$1·4 to 2·1 trillion/year, equivalent to 2 to 3 % of the global gross domestic product.
A previous SNippet described research that found links between maternal veganism and infant stunting, as well as wasting and anaemia when compared with other households. The provision of an adequately nutritious and diverse diet counters the risk of malnutrition, and achieves greatest results during the complementary feeding phase (first 1000 days of life), when breast milk alone is no longer enough to meet the nutritional requirements of growing children. Foods of animal origin such as meat, eggs, fish, and dairy are known to be rich in nutrients needed to promote growth, motor, and cognitive development, as elucidated in this review.
The review emphasised the suitability of giving eggs on linear growth of children in low-income households. They compared egg supplementation in the diets of 160 children and reported a higher effect on growth in children receiving an egg compared to those receiving no food supplementation.
The reviewed studies confirm that animal-source foods, have demonstrated potential for addressing childhood malnourishment as complementary foods. This is not to say that such foods should be used exclusively – plant-sourced nutrition is also highly valuable – but rather to indicate their value, and the risks of their exclusion.