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07-09-2011 | General practice | Article

Early introduction of complementary food may increase fussy eating behavior


Free abstract

MedWire News: Research suggests that introduction of complementary food into the diet before the age of 6 months may increase the chance of a child developing "picky" eating behaviors such as food neophobia.

"Picky eating behaviors are prevalent during childhood and are often linked to nutritional problems," explain Jae Eun Shim (Seoul National University, Korea) and colleagues.

"However, information on the determinants of picky eating behaviors during infancy, when food acceptance patterns develop, is scarce."

To investigate further, Shim and colleagues collected information on infant feeding practices before 1 year of age and eating behaviors at 2.97 years from 129 mothers of preschool-aged children who participated in the Synergistic Theory and Research on Obesity and Nutrition Group (STRONG) Kids program, based in Illinois, USA.

As reported in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, researchers found that exclusive breastfeeding during the first 6 months of life significantly reduced the risk for food neophobia (fear of new foods) by 75%, food rejection by 81%, and for preferring a specific food preparation method by 78% at the age of 2.97 years compared with non-exclusive breastfeeding.

However, introduction of complementary foods (other than breast milk or formula) before the age of 6 months significantly increased the risk for food neophobia or eating a limited variety of foods at 2.97 years by 2.45- and 2.46-fold, respectively, compared with exclusive breastfeeding. Even earlier introduction of complementary foods, at 4 months or younger, increased the risk for later picky eating behaviors still further.

These associations were independent of mother's age, ethnicity, marital status, employment status, education level, household income level, and child's age, gender, and ethnicity.

"A large number of studies related to infant feeding practices have focused on excessive weight gain in infancy, showing that early cessation of breastfeeding and early introduction of complementary foods increase the risk of obesity," say Shim et al.

However, "the potential long-term effects of infant feeding practices on the development of eating behaviors and consequent risk of obesity are largely unknown," they add.

"Future longitudinal studies using validated measures are warranted to monitor children's growth and nutrient intake according to different aspects of picky eating behaviors," they suggest.

By Helen Albert

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