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New Study Finds Pureed Pork Supports Infant Growth

New Study Finds Pureed Pork Supports Infant Growth
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DES MOINES, Iowa, — Meat, such as pork, can

be an important source of much-needed protein in an infant’s diet

during the transition to solid foods, according to new research from

the University of Colorado published in the American Journal of

Clinical Nutrition.1 The first six to 12 months of life is a period of

rapid growth when nutrition plays a pivotal role and, for many moms,

meat may not be the first choice for an infant’s complementary

feeding. Yet this new research suggests a higher-protein diet, with

meat as the primary source, may be beneficial for formula-fed infants

when it comes to early length growth.

“Meat, such as pork, provides important micronutrients, is an

excellent source of protein and can be an important complementary food

for infants who are ready for solid foods,” said lead study author

Minghua Tang, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of

Colorado. “Our research suggests introducing higher amounts of protein

and introducing meat, such as pork, into the diet at five months could

be potentially beneficial for linear growth (length gain).”

In the study, 64 healthy, formula-fed infants ate meat-based

complementary foods, such as pureed ham and beef, or dairy-based

complementary foods from ages five to 12 months old, increasing their

protein intake from two grams of protein per kilogram each day before

the study up to three grams per kilogram each day during the study

period. While the protein increased, both calories and fat intakes

stayed the same between the meat and dairy groups, regardless of

protein source. Researchers found the pureed meats promoted a greater

rate of growth – with length of nearly one inch greater compared to

the dairy-fed group at 12 months of age, with no increase in risk of

being overweight at the completion of the seven-month study. These

findings build upon previous research demonstrating meat-based

complementary foods promoted increases in length without excessive

weight gain among breastfeed infants, too.2

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends introducing solid foods

at four to six months of age and advises exposing babies to a wide

variety of healthy foods, including a variety of different textures.

For babies who are mostly breastfeeding, meat may also have the added

benefit of more easily absorbed iron and zinc, as breastfed infants

are at a higher risk of becoming iron deficient than formula-fed

infants. The World Health Organization also recognizes the need for

protein early, recommending infants eat meat, poultry, fish or eggs

daily, if possible. The U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and

Human Services are also planning to expand the 2020-2025 Dietary

Guidelines to include guidance on infant nutrition – given the pivotal

role nutrition plays during infant growth.

While more research is needed to understand the potential long-term

impacts of including meat, such as pork, in infant diets for growth,

the benefits of pork in the diet overall are extensive. In addition to

providing high-quality protein to promote growth and development, pork

also provides iron and zinc – two key nutrients for which this age

group may be deficient during periods of rapid growth.

“This research is particularly exciting because it shows nutrient-rich

pork can play an important role in the whole family’s diet,” said

Adria Huseth, registered dietitian and manager of nutrition

communications and research at National Pork Board. “It’s

nutrient-rich, as well as a versatile, affordable and accessible

protein.”

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