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Study finds early introduction of foods high in sugar, salt is common in rural areas – Times of India



WASHINGTON: According to a study of more than 10,000 kids in rural Pennsylvania, many kids were fed foods high in sugar and salt throughout their early years of life.

Experts contend that exposing young infants to excessively sugary or salty foods can influence their taste preferences and, over time, develop bad eating habits.
“Given that these foods are not recommended for children, these numbers are concerning,” said Carolyn F. McCabe, PhD, a staff scientist in the Department of Population Health Sciences and the Center for Obesity and Metabolic Research at Geisinger. “Early exposure to foods and beverages high in sugar, fat, and sodium can potentially have negative consequences for the healthy growth and development of infants and children.”

“Early life is such a critical period for establishing eating habits and food preferences, and these preferences and behaviors around food can persist as children grow,” said McCabe. She added that early exposure to these foods may mean some children are not getting enough of the healthy foods they need for proper nutrition. “Infants and toddlers have small stomachs, so it is important to make every bite count.”
For the study, researchers analyzed questionnaires given at well-child visits for 10,614 children up to 26 months of age who visited Geisinger, a rural-serving health system in Pennsylvania between 2016-2020. In addition to the early introduction of foods high in sugar, fat, and sodium, the study revealed that less than half of babies exclusively consumed human milk and/or formula for the first six months of life as dietary guidelines recommend. Twenty-nine per cent of children received sweetened cereal and 1 in 10 received sugar-sweetened beverages before age 2.
Children living in rural areas face many health and socioeconomic disparities. One in 5 rural children live in poverty and children in rural areas are 25 per cent more likely to experience obesity compared with nonrural children. These disparities make it even more important to ensure rural families are aware of dietary guidelines for children and have the resources they need to follow them, McCabe said.

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