WASHINGTON — Infants who consumed grains had more fiber and several other nutrients and vitamins in their diet when compared to infants who did not consume grains, according to a study funded by the Washington-based Grain Foods Foundation and published online Nov. 20, 2019, in Nutrients.
The Grain Foods Foundation plans to use the study’s findings to inform developers of the upcoming, updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which for the first time will include recommendations for infants up to age 2 as well as for pregnant and lactating women.
“This study is the first to examine grain consumption patterns among U.S. infants using NHANES and clearly provides evidence for what organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the C.D.C. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), have been suggesting for decades: Grains support the backbone of a healthy infant diet,” said the study’s author, Yanni Papanikolaou, vice-president of Nutrition Strategies Inc. “In addition, the study highlights the many potential long-term, nutrition-related health risks of eliminating or reducing grain foods from diets during one of the most crucial stages of growth and development.”
The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee held its fourth meeting Jan. 23-24 in Houston. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services should present the updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans later this year.
The study, which may be found here, used infant data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which involved 24-hour dietary recall.
Infants age 6 to 12 months who consumed grains had higher daily intakes of dietary fiber, calcium, folate, potassium, magnesium, zinc, phosphorous, choline, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin A, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 relative to infants of that age who did not consume grains. Infants age 6 to 12 months who consumed grains also had higher intakes of sodium and sugars, including added sugars.
Infants age 6 to 12 months who consumed grains had greater scores for intake of other items, including greens and beans, total fruit, whole grains, refined grains, dairy foods, total protein foods, and saturated fat.
Among infants age 13 to 23 months, grain consumption was associated with greater daily intake of fiber, iron, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, folate, riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, vitamin A, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12. There were no differences in intakes of sodium and sugars, including added sugars.
Infants age 13 to 23 months who consumed grains also had greater scores for intake of total fruit, whole fruit, whole grains and refined grains.
“The key takeaway of this study is that parents, caregivers and those who provide them nutritional guidance need to know the many benefits of including, and the many risks of excluding, grains in infants’ diets,” Mr. Papanikolaou said.
Enriched grains also may receive positive comments in the upcoming Dietary Guidelines for Americans since they contain folic acid. The F.D.A. in 1998 mandated the fortification of enriched grains with folic acid since it helps prevent birth defects, including neural tube defects.