Nordic diet could be key to instilling healthier eating habits in babies, study says

Babies fed New Nordic Diet tasting portions of fruits, berries, roots and vegetables, as well as breast milk or formula, from 4 to 6 months of age, ate almost twice as much vegetables (46% more). ), than those fed a conventional diet, at 18 months of age.

Researchers from Umeå University, Sweden, Stockholm County Council Center for Epidemiology, and the University of California, USA, followed two groups of babies from 4 to 6 months to 18 months, as part of the trial OTIS (see editor’s notes below). A total of 250 babies participated and 82% completed the trial.

The study found marked differences in the dietary habits of young children in the 2 groups. Those following the New Nordic Diet, who were provided with homemade Nordic baby food recipes, reduced-protein baby food products and offered parental support through social media, consumed between 42% and 45% more fruits and vegetables between 12 and 18 months of age. age, compared to those who were fed the conventional diet currently recommended by the Swedish Food Agency.

While fruit consumption within the conventional group remained constant, infants fed the conventional diet reduced their vegetable consumption by 36% between 12 and 18 months.

Babies on the Nordic diet had a mean protein intake 17-29% lower than those on the conventional diet at 12-18 months of age. This was still within the recommended levels of protein intake and the total calorie count between the two groups was the same. The reduced protein in the Nordic diet group was replaced by more carbohydrates from vegetables, not more grains, along with some extra fat from rapeseed oil.

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Lead researcher Dr. Ulrica Johansson, MD in pediatrics and a registered dietitian at Umeå University, Sweden, said there did not appear to be any negative effects from having a lower protein intake. A Nordic diet is similar to a Mediterranean diet, but the Nordic diet is based on foods that grow much better in cooler climates than in hot climates.

Commenting on the findings, Dr Johansson says: “A protein-reduced Nordic diet introduced to infants who were previously unfamiliar with this feeding pattern increased intake of fruits, berries, vegetables and roots, establishing a preferable feeding pattern that lasts longer. more than 12 years. period of one month.”

“There were no negative effects on the duration of lactation, iron status or growth.”

“A low-protein Nordic diet is safe, feasible and can contribute to sustainable and healthy eating during infancy and early childhood,” he added.

The new research could pave the way to broadening the spectrum of flavors in babies and potentially provide an effective strategy for instilling healthier eating habits earlier in life.

The Nordic diet has a higher consumption of fruits, berries, vegetables, herbs, mushrooms, tubers and legumes of regional and seasonal production, as well as whole grains, vegetable fats and oils, fish and eggs, and a lower consumption of sweets, desserts and dairy, meat and meat products.

Typical Nordic fruits include lingonberry, sea buckthorn berry, lingonberry, raspberry and cranberry, as well as fiber-rich vegetables such as turnip, beet, turnip, celery root, carrots, parsnip, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and kale.

Chairman of the ESPGHAN Nutrition Committee, Professor Jiri Bronsky, stated: “The authors have shown a significant effect of diet in 12- and 18-month-old children. The Nordic diet group ate more fruits and vegetables and less protein than the control group. The Nordic diet was well tolerated and did not adversely affect the child’s growth or duration of lactation. Importantly, this research demonstrates that this diet is safe, feasible, and exposes infants to a variety of flavors that can influence long-lasting food preferences.”

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The OTIS randomized controlled trial (RCT) compared the effects of a low-protein Nordic multicomponent dietary intervention with the current complementary feeding regimen on growth, metabolic markers, dietary intake, and feeding behavior from the start of complementary feeding. at 4-6 months up to 18 months of age.

The OTIS trial also aimed to compare the effects on body composition, cognitive development, and the composition of the faecal microbiota up to 18 months of age. The RCT study design was used to examine two equal groups where one group is exposed to the intervention and one group has a control role, allowing comparisons between groups and evaluation of the effects of the low-protein Nordic diet (intervention ) compared to normal conditions (control).

For more information, to speak with Dr. Johansson or an ESPGHAN expert, contact Sean Deans at [email protected] or call +44 (0) 208 154 6396.