Toddlers should eat fruit at meal times to make sure they have enough iron for proper development of their brains. A study at The University of Auckland has been looking at dietary habits and iron status in children aged between 6 and 23 months.
Deborah Brunt, a Masters student at the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, has found that children who are given fruit or juice as part of their regular meals have a higher level of iron in their blood than those that eat fruit at other times of the day, or not at all.
The study analysed data from interviews with 405 families about their toddlers? food and general habits and compared this information to laboratory measures of their iron status. The results showed that 20% of Maori children were iron deficient, compared to 16% of Pacific children and 7% of European children in the same age group.
Children did not eat as much fruit as they should. 57% of children ate two or more servings of fruit per day but only 11% ate the recommended 5 portions of fruit and vegetables, regardless of ethnicity or social level. Those children that ate fruit at meal times had better iron status than those who ate fruit as a snack or not at all.
“Iron is very important for young children, who are growing and developing at a fast rate,” says Deborah Brunt of the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences. “Without adequate iron, brain development is impaired and this can have long lasting effects on learning. By eating fruit or drinking fruit juices at meal times, parents can vastly improve their child?s iron level and subsequently provide them with a better chance of developing to their full potential.”
The study was funded through grants from the Health Research Council of New Zealand, Starship Foundation and Only Organics.