Hyderabad: With high levels of sugar in infant and baby foods, the World Health Organisation has asked paediatricians, gynaecologists and nutritionists not to prescribe these foods for infants below six months and to promote breast feeding and nutrient-rich home food for babies up to two years.
The guidelines come after over 8,000 baby foods in the market were studied and it was found that more than 30 per cent of calories they contained were from total sugars and around a third of the products contained added su-gar or sweetening agents.
Dr P. Janaki Srinath, senior nutritionist, explained that processed foods were prescribed earlier because of the high rate of infection, as hygiene was a major factor. “But over a period of time, it is now being seen that the process of making these foods is invariably adding more sugar to the body right from childhood. This has been found to be one of the reasons for childhood obesity. The taste buds develop from zero to two years of life,” Dr Srinath said.
Natural sugars are found in fruits and vegetables. But commercial baby food products have more than 30 per cent of “hidden sugars.”
Understanding the list of ingredients is often difficult and they often rely on nutritionists and doctors for guidance
“The labels do not specify the kind and types of sugars. The most common form of sugars are suc-rose, corn syrup and maltodexrin, which are very sweet and this leads to weight gain,” says nutritionist Sujatha Stephen.
“We must have proper regulations which require the manufacturer to mention the kind of carbohydrates used and the percentage of sugars. We must know the exact quantity and that will help health professionals make a better choice,” Dr Stephen said.
Mothers who have insufficient breast milk rely on baby food to provide the right nutrients for their babies. So nutritionists and paediatricians say there must be safe levels in processed foods and that requires regular monitoring from food regulatory authorities.
With breast feeding the infant for the first six months being advocated, the mother must also get the right nutrition and nourishment.
The focus has shifted in certain social settings from preventing infection and undernourishment, to controlling obesity and prevention of non-communicable diseases.
This shift is looking at sugars that are said to be the major culprit. Experts point out that the physical activity of an infant has also been reduced for safety reasons as they are in prams, high chairs or strapped to care givers' backs. These restrictions have led to less activity.
The guidelines state that babies must be allowed to crawl and those who are in the age group of one and two years must have 180 minutes of physical activity a day....