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Adult diets: rated X for infants.


The past decade has brought with it numerous admonitions from nutritionists to restrict salt and sugar in diets, to eat high-fiber foods--and a wide variety of them--and to cut down on fats and cholesterol. Adults only, however. For babies under two years of age, it's a whole different meal.

Gerber Products Co., basing its findings on statements published by the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition, recommends that parents follow a list of seven guidelines when deciding what to feed the baby: 1.) Build to a variety of foods (i.e., rather than bombard baby with an entire cornucopia of eating delights, start on one thing and gradually work in to other things); 2.) Avoid overfeeding or underfeeding your baby; 3.) Don't restrict fat and cholesterol too much; 4.) Don't overdo high-fiber foods; 5.) Sugar is OK in moderation; 6.) Salt is OK in moderation; 7.) Babies need more iron, pound for pound, than adults.

But doesn't this contradict all that the American public has been told about what should and shouldn't go into its stomachs? Don't overdo high-fiber foods? Don't restrict fat and cholesterol? Sugar and salt is OK, even in moderation? And why shouldn't a good parent try to introduce as many different kinds of food as he or she can on his or her child? Isn't it right to start them out early with good habits, before they can develop bad ones?

"We're concerned that many well-meaning parents may be feeding their babies diets based on guidelines meant for adults," says Dr. Fima Lifshitz, professor of pediatrics at the Cornell University Medical College. Lifshitz was one of the physicians called upon to review the Gerber guidelines. "Because most growth and development takes place in the first two years of life, an insufficient combination of nutrients, including fat, cholesterol and sugar can lead to serious health problems, including failure to thrive," he added. Another pediatrician cited the example of parents giving their infants skim milk instead of whole milk in an effort to keep the baby on a low-fat diet as another instance of parents applying what they've learned to be good for themselves to their infants. What works for adults simply won't wash for babies, says Lifshitz.

"No one has ever designed a better product to help babies grow than breast milk," says Lifshitz. "Breast milk is neither low in fat or cholesterol. Now if nature meant babies to have the same nutrition as adults, breast milk might have been designed differently."

Guy Johnson, director of infant nutrition at Gerber Products, would seem to agree. "Many types of food perceived to be bad for adults in terms of leading to degenerative diseases are actually good for babies," he says. The key to a healthy diet for both adults and infants, despite the differences in recommendations, says Lifshitz, would still seem to be that good old thing called moderation. "If you give [your child] nothing but chocolate cookies all day, that's a junk diet," he concludes. "But if you give your child fruit juice all day and nothing else, that's a junk diet, too." Parents can ask for and receive a 17-page pamphlet explaining the nutritional guidelines for infants through their physicians. (American Medical News, April 14, 1989; p. 11.)
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Title Annotation:nutritional guidelines for children under age 2
Publication:Medical Update
Date:May 1, 1989
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