Cereal fortification: can it address anaemia?

Monday, 25 March, 2024

Cereal fortification: can it address anaemia?

The Australian Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study 2021 or ‘OzFITS Trial’ from the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), published as a supplement in Nutrients, has concluded that iron-fortified infant cereals can improve iron intake among infants aged 6+ months.

This nationwide study of children under 2 years of age in Australia discovered that three-quarters (75%) of babies aged 6–12 months and a quarter (25%) of toddlers aged 1–2 years were not getting enough iron on a daily basis.

A subsequent modelling study published in The Journal of Nutrition at the end of last year showed that adding one serving of iron-fortified infant cereals daily to current diets (18 g providing 6.2 mg of iron) would reduce the prevalence of iron deficiency from 75 to 5%.

The study explained that few infants aged 6–12 months consumed iron-rich foods, such as red meat, poultry, fish and iron-fortified cereals, and those that did consumed small amounts. It goes on to say that even if higher amounts of iron-rich animal-source foods were given to infants, it is unlikely they would meet iron requirements, given the small amounts of food infants consume. The findings show that iron-fortified infant cereals can be an effective strategy for helping infants meet their iron requirements as they are specially formulated to meet their needs.

Filling the gap

Nestlé has been working to offer fortified, age-adapted baby food, including infant cereals, to help address micronutrient deficiencies in young children.

“It’s about expanding the conventional role of infant cereals and helping to fill micro and macro nutritional gaps,” explained Dr Sara Colombo Mottaz, Head of Medical, Regulatory and Scientific Affairs for Nestlé’s Nutrition Strategic Business Unit.

“By the age of six months, infants may experience depleted nutrient levels due to the simultaneous introduction of complementary food alongside continued breastfeeding. Age-adapted cereal consumption goes beyond iron, it also provides the body with micronutrients, like zinc, calcium, vitamin D and magnesium. Addressing nutritional knowledge gaps among parents and healthcare professionals is also an important factor," she continued.

James Knott, Global Head for Early Childhood Food at Nestlé, added: “Ensuring access to nutrients at the right levels enhances the brain development and cognitive function of young children. Fortified infant cereals can further help behaviour development as early exposure to different flavours, textures and colours can influence future healthy eating patterns. For example, the more different textures children consume, the more they move their mouth, lips and tongue, thus enhancing oral development and motor skills.”

Image credit: iStock.com/Liudmila Chernetska

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