Every month, researchers publish new studies that show how this or that food may cause health problems later in life. This is certainly true for kids. With obesity rates on the rise, every parent worries which foods are healthy and which ones aren’t. Many Americans are choosing gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan diets and wondering if these might be best for their children. One recent research study now suggests that meat protein for babies might be a good thing. In fact, meat protein for babies might be better than dairy, formula or any other protein options.
Meat Protein for Babies – Better Than Dairy Protein!
Researchers at the University of Colorado School of Medicine recently conducted a study involving 64 infants. Half of the infants received pureed meats as their protein source. The other half received their protein in the form of dairy products. Both groups were then evaluated over seven months to determine if meat protein for babies was healthier. What they found was rather interesting. After measuring growth, researchers found that meat protein for babies resulted in nearly an inch more growth in length. That wasn’t all. They also found that meat protein for babies had positive effects on weight compared to age. In fact, the infants on dairy protein gain weight in excess their age norms despite having shorter height measurements.
All of the babies in the study started the study diets at 5 months of age. They were then followed until they were 12 months old. As best as possible, the researchers tried to isolate meat protein as the main difference between the groups. In this regard, both groups ate similar foods otherwise and had about the same number of calories per day. Likewise, except for eating meat during infancy, both groups had similar demographic characteristics as well. Though the numbers of babies were not huge, the results were statistically significant. The researchers thus concluded that meat protein for babies was healthy for early growth and development.
Why Is Meat Protein for Babies Healthier?
Meat protein for babies is not something that is frowned upon. In fact, many pediatricians and nutritionists encourage meat as a first complementary food to breastfeeding or bottle-feeding. One of the most important reasons health professionals recommend meat protein for babies involves its iron content. Red meats specifically can help prevent iron deficiency in children. Believe it or not, this remains a problem even in the U.S. Roughly one in every seven toddlers is deficient in iron. Meat protein can reduce the chances of this problem.
Meat protein for babies may be beneficial for growth in part because it is a complete protein. In other words, meat has a full complement of essential amino acids needed for growth. It would, therefore, make sense why meat protein would result in healthier growth. However, it is less clear why meat protein for babies might provide advantages for a healthier weight. In the study, both groups of infants received equal amounts of fats per day. Thus, the puzzle concerning the weight advantage remains as it relates to eating meat in infancy.
When Is Meat Protein for Babies Recommended?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, meat protein for babies is fine after 6 months of age. However, the researchers in Colorado suggested that pureed meats could be started as early as 5 months. At that age, infants no longer push foods out of their mouth with their tongues. Also, their ability to swallow and control their tongues are much improved. In the study, the researchers used pureed beef and pork since both are high in iron and protein. Others suggest that infants are also able to more easily digest meats. They also support meat protein for babies at an early age.
Of course, meat protein for babies does not replace other healthy dietary practices. Breastfeeding is still recommended through the first year of life. Meat protein should serve as a complement to breastfeeding after the recommended age. Likewise, meat protein in babies should complement formula if it is being used also. Other foods after 6 months of age are also important. These foods help provide infants with a full range of nutrients needed for proper growth and development. But based on recent evidence, meat protein for babies is not a bad thing.
EVP & Associate Publisher