High intakes of salt and sugar in Irish children aged 1-4

Nutrient intakes and compliance with nutrient recommendations in children aged 1–4 years in Ireland

Walton et al., JHND Early View

Background

The early childhood years represent a period of rapid growth and development characterised by unique requirements for energy and individual nutrients.

Methods

The present study uses data from the National Pre-School Nutrition Survey, a nationally representative sample of Irish children (1–4 years) (n = 500), aiming to estimate energy and nutrient intakes across age and compliance with recommendations (UK and European). A 4-day weighed food-record was used to collect dietary data and statistical modelling (National Cancer Institute method) was applied to estimate usual nutrient intakes.

Results

Intakes of carbohydrate [48–50% energy (E)], protein (15–16%E), total fat (32–34%E), dietary fibre (2.5 g MJ−1), α-linolenic acid (0.45%E) and most micronutrients were in good compliance with recommendations. However, intakes of long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA) (65–80 mg) were low and significant proportions of children had inadequate intakes (< estimated average requirement) of vitamin D and iron. Small proportions of children with intakes exceeding the upper level for retinol, folic acid, zinc, copper and iodine, are unlikely to give rise to adverse health effects. Mean intakes of free sugars (12%E) and salt (3.1 g day−1) exceeded recommendations and increased with age, whereas mean intake of saturated fat (15%E) decreased with age. By the age of 4 years, patterns established for intakes of salt, saturated fat and free sugars were unfavourable and similar to those observed in the diets of older children.

Conclusions

Further research is needed to identify dietary strategies that improve the quality of the diet in young children, particularly in relation to excess of saturated fat, free sugars and salt, as well as inadequacy of iron, vitamin D and LCPUFA.

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