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70% of 8 month old babies consume more salt than the recommended UK maximum level.
This is mainly because they are fed salty and processed foods like baked beans, tinned spaghetti, gravy and 'Marmite'-type products. And despite recommendations that it should not be given as a main drink until babies are at least one year old, many babies are also given cows' milk, which has higher levels of salt than breast or formula milk. High levels of salt can damage developing kidneys and establish poor eating practices that can result in health problems later in life.
Researchers at the University of Bristol have just published the findings, based on almost 1,200 participants in the Children of the 90s study. The researchers found that the majority of infants were first introduced to solids at around the 3-4 months mark, with the mean salt intake for the highest group at 8 months more than double the maximum recommendation for that age group (400mg sodium per day up to 12 months). Babies in this top group often drank cows' milk as their main drink - cows' milk has a higher sodium content at 55mg per 100g than breast milk which has 15mg per 100g. They also ate three times the amount of bread compared to the lowest group, and were given salty flavourings such as yeast extract and gravy.
Speaking about the research findings, Dr Pauline Emmett and Vicky Cribb, the nutritionists who conducted the research, said:
'These findings show that salt intakes need to be substantially reduced in children of this age group. Infants need foods specifically prepared for them without added salt, so it is important to adapt the family diet. This research suggests that clear advice is needed for parents about what foods are suitable for infants. This should be given to all parents and carers and should include the important advice not to use cows' milk as a main drink before 12 months of age.'
The researchers studied three-day dietary records of 1,178 8-month-old infants born in 1991/92 and involved in the Children of the 90s study at the University of Bristol.
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