Socioeconomic, cultural and demographic maternal factors associated with dietary patterns of infants

Researchers from the Department of Nutrition of Universidade Federal de Pernambuco (UFPE) in Recife, Pernambuco, Northeast Brazil, have recently published, in the December 2015 issue of Revista Paulista de Pediatria, a study analyzing dietary patterns of infants and its association with maternal socioeconomic, cultural, and demographic variables.

The authors comment that appropriate diet within the first two years of age is essential, because this period is characterized by rapid growth, development and formation of dietary habits that can last for the entire life. In addition to being determinants of health status in childhood, dietary practices are strongly related to family purchasing power, since it has a direct influence on the availability, quantity, and quality of the food consumed. Over the past few years, there have been several changes in the dietary habits of the population, associated mainly with the replacement of homemade and natural foods with superfluous industrialized foods with a high energy density and low nutritional quality. These changes were also attributable to the advertising market, globalization, the fast pace of life in large cities, and women's work outside the home. In this sense, the identification of dietary patterns of infants is an important object of study in nutritional epidemiology, with the purpose of understanding one of the factors responsible for good health in childhood. Therefore, the study of Universidade Federal de Pernambuco (UFPE) aimed to analyze the dietary patterns of infants and its association with maternal socioeconomic, cultural, and demographic variables

A cross-sectional study was conducted with two groups of mothers of children below 24 months living in the city of Maceió, Alagoas, Northeast Brazil. The case group consisted of mothers enrolled in the family care unit Carla Nogueira, located in a low-income neighborhood belonging to the VI Health District. The comparison group consisted of mothers who took their children to two private pediatric offices of the city.

"The study shows that industrialized foods considered superfluous have been introduced increasingly earlier because of factors associated with the main caregiver: the mother. The consequence of this behavior is excessive weight gain in the first years of life, contributing to the increased rates of childhood obesity," stated Andréa Marques Sotero, one of the authors of the study. According to Sotero, the results of the study suggest that television media and lack of support from health care professionals contribute to the early introduction of inadequate dietary practices. The combination of these findings has a direct impact on society, because it shows the need of redirecting the concept of health education based on the principle of completeness. "Health care professionals should be more participative by developing actions of health promotion and building practices that allow for an integrated and humanized assistance model to respond to individual and collective needs. Furthermore, television media should be seen as an ally in the process of health education, since it has a persuasive power that reaches all socioeconomic levels," emphasized Sotero.

It is also important that public managers become aware of the fact that, in order to be translated into more effective actions, the process of health education should involve health care professionals, health care managers, and civil society. "With these results, we expect to contribute to the design of effective strategies and actions aimed at preventing the consumption of unhealthy foods by young children," concluded Sotero

The research was conducted with the support of Universidade Federal de Pernambuco (UFPE)

Contact: Andréa Marques Sotero
Departamento de Nutrição da Universidade Federal de Pernambuco (UFPE)

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