Effect of Timing of Introduction of Complementary Foods on Iron and Zinc Status of Formula Fed Infants at 12, 24, and 36 Months of Age

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Age Factors, Body Composition, Child, Preschool, Diet Records, Erythrocyte Indices, Female, Ferritins, Growth, Hemoglobins, Humans, Infant, Infant Food, Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena, Iron, Iron, Dietary, Male, Prospective Studies, Regression Analysis, Time Factors, Zinc


OBJECTIVE: The timing of introduction of complementary food to an infant's diet is variable throughout the world. Our objective was to determine whether early introduction of complementary foods affects iron and zinc status of formulated infants at 12, 24, and 36 months of age.
DESIGN: A randomized, prospective trial was conducted. Infants were randomly assigned to receive either a) early introduction (at 3 to 4 months of age) of commercially prepared or parent's choice of complementary foods; or b) late introduction (at 6 months of age) of commercially prepared complementary foods or parent's choice of complementary foods. In addition to complementary foods, infants were fed commercial infant formula as recommended by their pediatrician. Hemoglobin, mean corpuscular volume, and serum ferritin and zinc concentrations were determined at 12, 24, and 36 months of age. Three-day diet diaries were completed at 3, 6, 12, 18, 24, 30, and 36 months of age.
SUBJECTS/SETTING: One hundred seventy-five infants younger than 3 months were recruited by mailings to parents in the Cincinnati area. Of these, 172 were enrolled, 90 in the early-introduction group and 82 in the late-introduction group. One hundred thirty-three infants (n = 67 in the early, n = 66 in the late group) completed the study.
STATISTICAL ANALYSES PERFORMED: Student t test and regression analyses were used to determine whether there were group differences and whether there was a relationship between serum parameters and dietary intake.
RESULTS: Infants fed complementary foods early had significantly greater iron intakes until 6 months of age; however, there were no differences in the iron status parameters (ferritin, hemoglobin, and mean corpuscular volume) at 12, 24, or 36 months of age. The early introduction group consumed slightly less zinc than the late introduction group at 5 months (4.4 vs 4.8 mg/day, P < .01) and 6 months (4.4 vs 4.7 mg/day, P < .01). At all other times there were no differences between the early and late group in zinc intakes. The serum zinc concentration was not associated with dietary zinc. Both groups had normal serum zinc concentrations at 12, 24, and 36 months and there were no differences between groups.
APPLICATIONS/CONCLUSIONS: The iron and zinc status of infants in this study was not influenced by the timing or type of complementary foods introduced. However, the infants were formula fed and the mean iron and zinc intakes that were equal or greater than the Recommended Dietary Allowances for the first 6 months of age.

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Journal of the American Dietetic Association





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