A University of Manitoba nutrition researcher is going to study whether meat or iron-fortified cereal is better as a six-month-old infant’s first solid food.
Okay, I never had any choice when I was six months old, but even then I knew that tasteless gruel straight from a box wasn’t exactly gourmet dining.
Nevertheless, James Friel, a professor in the University of Manitoba’s Department of Human Nutritional Sciences and an expert on infant nutrition, is questioning the Canadian government’s new infant feeding guidelines that say babies’ first solid foods should include “daily or frequent consumption” of meat, poultry or fish, according to a story in the Winnipeg Free Press.
Health Canada is advising pediatricians and parents that to ward off iron-deficiency, which can cause serious complications in infants, animal foods are recommended. In the past, the agency recommended iron-fortified baby cereal, vegetables and fruit as an infant’s first solid food.
“The [new recommendations] are a big disconnect for me,” said Friel, who claimed to be concerned about meat’s potential link to cancer and other diseases.“We tell adults to cut back on red meat. That’s one of our recommendations for lots of reasons, and now we're telling babies to make it one of their first foods. As a scientist, I have so much challenge with that.”
Friel was a member of Health Canada's nine-member advisory panel that helped shape the infant feeding recommendations. The story said he resigned from the committee “over unease about what he calls the lack of scientific data to support feeding meat to infants so early in their development.” According to the article, Friel said discussion during the three meetings he attended in Ottawa became “heated.”
“I’m sitting on a national committee that is making recommendations for all Canadian newborns,” he told the newspaper. “I’m thinking, ‘There's no data. There’s just not enough information.’ The decisions are being made emotional reasons and not scientific reasons.”
Friel stated that he believes breast milk is one of the best foods for babies, providing nutrients and immune protection unlike any other alternative.
No argument there.
As a specialist in human breast milk research, he also believes babies should be breast-fed for as long as possible, although he noted that the iron reserves in mother’s milk diminish after about six months, so parents need to introduce supplementary baby food to prevent anemia and other nutritional deficiencies.