Study highlights the role of infant rice cereals in nutrient status and dietary patterns
An investigation of infant feeding patterns found infants and toddlers consuming baby cereal, such as rice cereal, had higher intakes of key nutrients of concern, such as calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc and vitamin E.
Baby cereal consumers were also found to be less likely to have inadequate intakes of iron, calcium and vitamin E – important nutrients for developing infants. The study, Nutrient intake, introduction of baby cereals and other complementary foods in the diets of infants and toddlers from birth to 23 months of age, published in AIMS Public Health, illustrates the importance of rice baby cereal in the diets of infants and toddlers in achieving proper nutrition.
This study examined National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data, a national survey of food intake, from 2001 to 2014 to assess food intake in infants and toddlers from birth to 23 months. The study evaluated four age ranges – ages 0 to 3 months, 4 to 6 months, 7 to 11 months and 12 to 23 months – and the role of cereal consumption such as rice cereal. Researchers investigated whether baby cereal consumption (e.g. rice cereal) was related to different eating patterns, nutrient status and intakes of added sugars, saturated fat and sodium, when compared to non-cereal consumers.
When introduced as early as 4 months, baby cereal, including rice cereal, is associated with improved nutrient status. From 4 to 6 months of age, babies who ate cereal took in more calories, carbohydrates, whole grains and key nutrients, like vitamin B6, calcium, iron and magnesium. As infants get older, the results remained similar. From 7 to 11 months, cereal consumers were found to have higher intakes of carbohydrates, vitamin E, calcium, iron, zinc and magnesium. Beyond the first year of life, baby cereal consumption continued to be associated with greater iron, zinc and vitamin E intake.
“Based on the results, diet recommendations for infants from birth to 23 months should include baby cereal – like rice cereal – due to its role in maintaining nutrient status which supports growth and development,” suggests study author, Theresa Nicklas
Overall, the study demonstrates there is a strong public health benefit to feeding infants ages 4 to 11 months infant baby cereal. Data indicates that feeding cereal, such as rice cereal, as one of babies’ first foods has a positive impact on nutrient status. Babies who consumed rice and other infant cereals, during the first two years of life, had more complete and balanced nutrition than those who were not fed baby cereal. While more research is needed, this study demonstrates a link between feeding infants and toddlers baby cereal and an improved overall nutrition profile.
“The results of this study build a strong case for the benefits of feeding your infant baby cereal. As the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee looks to evaluate food patterns and nutrient status of infants aged 0 to 23 months, it is important to consider the role of baby cereal in the diets of infants and toddlers”, says Nicklas.
The study was supported by The Rice Foundation, the research arm of the U.S. rice industry.