Infants, Toddlers Should Not Restrict Fat Intake, Experts Say

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Butter can be more nutritious than low-fat yogurt. An egg is more nutritious than broccoli.

At least that's true for many infants and toddlers, and even children as old as 5 years, all of whom may need more fat in their diets than adults, two nutritionists say.

Bruce Watkins, professor of lipid chemistry and metabolism at Purdue University, and Bernhard Hennig, professor of cell nutrition at the University of Kentucky, say that children under age 5 -- especially infants -- are getting too little fat in their diets. They are suggesting new dietary recommendations for children as old as age 5 and changes in the makeup of infant formulas.

"The scientific community is focused in one direction, and that is reducing dietary fat in all individuals," Watkins says. "But trying to adapt fat recommendations from adults to infants and toddlers is not the best way."

Hennig agrees. "There's little information that restricting fat before 2 years of age could be beneficial, but there's plenty of evidence that this could be dangerous," he says. "One of the main reasons is that it may retard growth and development."

According to the researchers, restricted fat intake in children reduces growth and visual acuity and limits mental development. "For example, omega-3 fatty acids -- which come from fish and certain plant oils -- are crucial for brain development and for development of the retina," Watkins says.

The researchers conducted a scientific review of available information and concluded that dietary fat recommendations for adults have been inappropriately applied to children, who have a different physiology and different growth needs than adults. Their paper is published as a chapter in a new book, "Lipids in Infant Nutrition," which has just been released by the American Oil Chemists' Society.

Health organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Heart Association, and the National Heart,

Contact: Steve Tally
Purdue University

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