The study, conducted by Peking University and Nestle Research, was funded by the latter and the 13th Five-Year Plan for National Key Research and Development Program of China.
The two-part research looked at the nutrient status of Chinese toddlers aged 12–36 months and whether adding toddler formula, termed as young children formula (YCF) in the study, could improve nutrient status.
In the first part of the study, the researchers found that children drinking YCF have a higher intake of vitamins and minerals, except for magnesium, than non-consumers.
The analysis was based on a cross-sectional survey conducted in 2011 and 2012, where the dietary intakes of 910 toddlers aged 12–36 months were recorded via a 24-hour recall questionnaire.
YCF consumers were found to have a higher mean intake of all other nutrients such as vitamin C (65.2mg Vs 46.5mg), vitamin D (17.2mg Vs 11.3mg), and vitamin A (730.2 μg Vs 456.6 μg).
Their mean intake of magnesium was however, lower than non-consumers at 123.7mg and 146.8mg respectively.
The researchers said that the results were similar to a recent study conducted in the Philippines, where YCF consumers were more likely to achieve adequate amounts of vitamins C, D, B6, iron, and zinc etc.
In addition, the study found that less than half of the children met the dairy intake recommendation of 300g/day as recommended by the Chinese Dietary Guidelines.
As such, the researchers went on to find out if adding YCF or dairy products into the diet could improve dairy intake recommendations and nutrient status in children who lacked dairy and nutrient intake.
Cow’s milk Vs YCF
They found that while adding both cow’s milk and YCF could improve dairy and nutrient status, YCF was more acceptable and effective than cow’s milk as it has lower calories, total fat, and saturated fats.
For instance, the mean saturated fat intake when consuming cow’s milk was 9.2g and lower at 8.5g when consuming YCF.
YCF also provided a higher intake of nutrients such as iron (12.9mg Vs 11.8mg) and selenium (27.2mg Vs 26.3mg).
Nonetheless, the use of cow’s milk also has its merits as it provided more riboflavin (0.88mg Vs 0.81mg) and calcium (532.2mg Vs 513.4mg).
“We proved our hypotheses to be true, i.e., diet quality can be improved by achieving dairy intake recommendations and YCF consumption can improve the intakes of minerals and vitamins, while providing a healthier fatty acid profile,” the researchers concluded.
Young children from families with higher income and mothers with higher education levels were more likely to consume YCF.
The percentage of children who drank YCF was 67.3% and 61.4% from middle- and high-income families respectively.
Children with mothers who received higher education (equal or more than 12 years) were also more likely to feed their children with YCF.
Seventy-one percent of children with mothers who received higher education had consumed YCF, while only 48.4% of children with mothers with lower education (equal or less than nine years) did so.
Patterns of the Consumption of Young Children Formula in Chinese Children Aged 1–3 Years and Implications for Nutrient Intake
Authors: Yumei Zhang, et al