New Study Data Shows Need to Educate Parents on Healthy Lifestyles
(FLORHAM PARK, New Jersey) – In 2009 Nestlé released findings from its landmark 2008 Nestlé Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study (FITS) that revealed both progress and areas of concern in the diets of young children in the United States. The FITS data has been further examined to reveal that lifestyle behaviors, in addition to eating patterns and nutrient intakes, are problematic even among children under age four. This data was recently presented at an educational symposium at the American Academy of Pediatrics Annual Conference in San Francisco on Oct. 4, 2010.
National statistics show 21 percent of U.S. children between the ages of two and five are actually overweight or obese*. Yet, the latest findings from Nestlé FITS show that only two to three percent of parents of children ages two to four think their child is overweight. Many parents may not notice weight problems in young children, even in the face of intense media and public health emphasis on childhood obesity.
Last year, the 2008 FITS data revealed that toddlers and preschoolers in particular had diets high in saturated fat and sodium, and lacking in fruits, vegetables, and fiber. The researchers noted that caregivers have made significant improvement in infant feeding compared to the first FITS study in 2002, but may need more guidance and diligence to improve the diets of toddlers and preschoolers who are mirroring the often unhealthy eating patterns of American adults.
Now, new FITS insights highlight other lifestyle patterns that may set the stage for unhealthy behaviors into adulthood:
- One in three toddlers and half of preschoolers eat fast food at least once a week;
- One in four families eat dinner together four or fewer nights each week;
- Half of 2-year-olds and 60 percent of 3-year-olds watch more than one hour of television each day; while 17 percent of 2-year-olds and 24 percent of 3-year-olds watch more than two hours.
"The Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study clearly shows that young children are establishing a pattern of unhealthy food and lifestyle choices at an alarmingly early age,” pediatrician Alan Lake says. “Without intervention, these patterns could contribute to a new generation of obese young adults with severe preventable diseases. The time for action is now - an action incorporating parents, pediatricians, community resources, industry, and media; an action based on education that is family centered and science-based, as well as cost and culturally aware."
New FITS data shows parents are, in fact, aware that the healthfulness of their child’s diet declines from infancy through preschool, with only 34 percent citing their child’s diet as “very healthy” at 36-47 months. However, it’s not always easy for parents to understand or introduce the right foods, nutrients and portion sizes a child needs for healthy growth and development.
American Academy of Pediatrics Launches New Education Initiative Aimed at Parents of Young Children
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), with support from the Nestlé Nutrition Institute, has established the Healthy Active Living for Families (HALF) Project to help identify and develop patient and family educational tools and materials. The materials will be specific to obesity prevention and care targeted to the following developmental stages: infancy, toddlerhood, and early childhood/preschoolers. These unique materials will be scientifically validated and crafted using a developmental approach to children’s care, with special attention on creating culturally appropriate materials and incorporating plain language to make it easy for all families to understand best health practices.
“Increasing our understanding of what parents and families need to help them adopt a healthy lifestyle for their children is so important,” Sandra Hassink, MD, FAAP, Chair of the AAP Obesity Leadership Workgroup, says. “We know that early health habits can last for a lifetime and helping families get off to a good start is a priority for pediatricians. The AAP is committed to supporting pediatricians and families in their partnership to prevent and treat childhood obesity.”
Pediatricians conduct 80 percent of well-child visits for children from birth through school entry, and thus have regular access to families. Therefore, the AAP will work to distribute new educational materials to parents at physician offices as well as other settings in which parents interact, such as employer health and child care outlets. The AAP will also make these family resources available through many AAP communication outlets including the AAP obesity website.
“We are honored to be working with the American Academy of Pediatrics to help empower families with the knowledge to be active participants in their children’s healthy development ,” Dr. Jose Saavedra, Head of Medical and Scientific Affairs, Nestlé Nutrition, says. “We take immense pride in our Feeding Infants & Toddlers Study research and in the development of our Nestlé Start Healthy, Stay Healthy™ Nutrition System, with the goal of helping parents raise a healthier generation of children. There is no doubt that our best chance for success in combating the obesity epidemic lies in prevention; the first years of life are critical to the establishment of healthy eating habits. This partnership with AAP is truly a natural and cohesive collaboration, as Nestlé research and GERBER® product development focus specifically on the healthy growth and development of children from birth up to age four.”
Topics will include food introduction, age-appropriate serving size/portions, age-appropriate physical activity, appropriate milk and juice consumption, and healthy snacking. The Association will be developing these resources using AAP expertise and data from rigorous national studies of young children’s eating and/or activity patterns, such as Nestlé Feeding Infants & Toddlers Study, to create the most comprehensive, easy-to-use tools for parents.
* National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2007-2008
About Nestlé Feeding Infants & Toddlers Study
Nestlé FITS, first initiated in 2002, was the largest dietary survey of young children in America ever undertaken to understand the dietary patterns and nutrient intakes of infants and toddlers. FITS was expanded in 2008 and examined whether the eating habits of young American children have improved, in comparison to 2002 data. FITS 2008 also includes preschoolers and is the first study of such magnitude -– more than 3,200 children – to look at the dietary patterns and nutrient intakes of infants, toddlers and preschoolers from birth to four years of age. Mathematica Policy Research, a nonpartisan research firm, conducted the study on behalf of Nestlé.
About HALF Project
The HALF Project is an AAP initiative, with funding and research support provided by Nestlé Nutrition Institute. The Project was created after a comprehensive needs assessment of AAP members found the need for pediatric-focused tools and resources to successfully support pediatricians in communicating family-centered obesity prevention and care. Materials created through the HALF project will be developed in collaboration with AAP’s Bright Futures initiative, which is a multidisciplinary and multicultural health promotion and disease prevention initiative supported by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) that addresses children’s health needs in the context of family and community.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. (www.aap.org)
About Nestlé Nutrition and Gerber
Nestlé Nutrition, part of Nestlé S.A., the world leader in nutrition, health and wellness is dedicated to infant nutrition, healthcare nutrition, performance nutrition and weight management. Gerber Products Company, founded in 1928, officially joined the Nestlé family on September 1, 2007. Nestlé and Gerber’s combined resources and scientific research expertise have enabled the company to become a worldwide leader in early childhood nutrition. Gerber produces more than 200 food products, all of which are a part of Nestlé’s proprietary Start Healthy, Stay Healthy™ integrated nutrition system. Start Healthy, Stay Healthy™ combines products, educational resources and services that are designed to encourage the early establishment of healthy eating habits in children from birth to preschool.
For more information on Nestlé Nutrition and Gerber, visit www.gerber.com.
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