Differences in diets between white British and British Pakistani infants and toddlers revealed
The Born in Bradford 1000 Study, which has this week been published in the Public Health Nutrition journal, also uncovered that British Pakistani babies eat much more fruit and less processed meat and, by the age of 18 months, these differences persist.
Led by Pinki Sahota, Professor of Nutrition & Childhood Obesity at Leeds Beckett, the study monitored the diets of more than 1,250 young children via a food frequency questionnaire completed by their parents when each child was aged between 12 and 18 months. Due to the smaller numbers of infants from other south Asian ethnic groups within the sample, the results presented were for the two larger groups of participants: white British (38%) and Pakistani (49%) at 12 months and white British (37%) and Pakistani (49%) at 18 months.
Speaking about the findings, Professor Sahota commented: “Our study found that dietary intake during infancy and early toddlerhood is associated with ethnicity, suggesting the importance of early and culturally-adapted interventions aimed at establishing healthy eating behaviours. The research - undertaken in Bradford - explored the intake of high fat/high sugar foods and high fibre/low fat/low sugar foods to identify the differences between white British and Pakistani populations.
“The study indicated that at 12 months, there was already evidence of the early introduction of foods high in sugar and fat. Foods such as chips, roast potatoes and potato shapes, cakes, biscuits, chocolates and sweets, crisps and savoury snacks and processed meat products featured regularly in the diets of infants. Analysis of the diet at 18 months revealed a substantial increase in the frequency of consumption of these same foods.
“Childhood obesity is a growing problem internationally and, within the UK, over a fifth of children starting school are overweight or obese. The prevalence of obesity is significantly higher in children of South Asian origin in the UK compared to white British children and the former are also at greater risk of obesity-related conditions such as type 2 diabetes and hypertension.
“Furthermore, to our knowledge, this is the first study that examines ethnic differences in the types of foods consumed during infancy with follow-up assessment in early toddlerhood.
“Current evidence supports that consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages contributes significantly to obesity. Our study has highlighted the early consumption of such drinks, with quantity consumed increasing with age and a particularly higher intake amongst Pakistani infants. The restriction of sugar-sweetened drinks should therefore constitute a key message for early interventions aimed at promoting and establishing healthy infant dietary behaviours.”
Professor Sahota added that inappropriate early dietary patterns that are established during weaning may persist into the second year of life and beyond and that optimising a child’s diet before the age of two may be critical in preventing obesity-related disease.
The Born in Bradford 1000 Study found:
- At 12 months, infants’ consumption of commercial sweet baby and savoury baby foods and formula milk was minimal.
- Although intakes were low, the following foods featured in the diet of both ethnic groups at 12 months: chips, roast potatoes and potato shapes, cakes, biscuits, chocolates, sweets and crisps and savoury snacks. Processed meat products were also eaten weekly at 12 months and fruit and vegetables consumed daily.
- At 18 months, intake of most of the aforementioned foods had increased compared to at 12 months. Additionally, weekly intake of sugar-sweetened drinks and pure fruit juice had increased at 18 months.
- At 12 months: Pakistani infants were less likely to consume any commercial savoury baby meals; more likely to have any commercial sweet baby meals; much more likely to consume more chips or potatoes; slightly more likely to consume more vegetables; much more likely to consume more fruit than white British; more likely to consume sugar-sweetened drinks and pure fruit juice and much less likely to consume processed meat products.
- At 18 months: Pakistani infants were less likely to consume any formula milk, processed meat products, vegetables, and low sugar drinks but more likely to consume commercial sweet baby meals, chips, roast potatoes or potato shapes, fruit, crisps, savoury snacks, sugar-sweetened drinks, pure fruit juice and water.
- Between the 12 and 18 month follow-up, Pakistani infants were much less likely to consume any formula milk at 18 months, whereas there were no ethnic differences at 12 months. At 12 months Pakistani infants were much less likely to be having commercial savoury baby meals, by 18 months there was no ethnic difference. At 12 months, Pakistani infants had twice the odds of consuming an above average level of commercial sweet baby meals, and by 18 months the difference was fourfold. Pakistani infants continued to have twice the odds of consuming above average amounts of chips, roast potatoes of potato shapes. The tendency for Pakistani infants to consume substantially less processed meat continued at 18 months.
- At 12 months Pakistani infants had slightly higher odds of consuming more than the average amount of vegetables per day. By 18 months this had decreased substantially compared to white British infants, with Pakistani children having only half the odds of above average vegetable intakes. Pakistani children continued to consume more fruit than white British but the gap was narrower at 18 months. There continued to be little evidence of ethnic differences in the consumption of cakes, biscuits, chocolates and sweets.
- In relation to drinks, Pakistani infants continued to consume more sugar-sweetened drinks and more pure fruit juice than white Brits, with the gap widening. At 12 months there was no difference in consumption of low-sugar drinks, whereas white Brits at 18 months had twice the odds of consuming above average amounts of this compared to Pakistani infants. Whilst there was no difference in consumption of water at 12 months, by 18 months the Pakistani infants were reported to have at least three times the odds of consuming water alone compared to white British children.
For this study, Professor Sahota collaborated with Dr Lisa Gatenby, of Leeds Trinity University; Dr Darren Greenwood of the University of Leeds; Dr Maria Bryant of the University of Leeds; Professor Sian Robinson of the University of Southampton and Professor John Wright of Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.