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Tuesday, July 26, 2016, 14:42

Study shows nursing mothers undernourished

By Honey Tsang

Study shows nursing mothers undernourished
A mother walks carrying a baby in Hong Kong on June 25, 2011. (AFP PHOTO / DANIEL SORABJI)
HONG KONG — A research team at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University warns that nursing mothers in the city are not getting enough calcium iodine or iron. In fact, they are getting “remarkably below” the recommended daily intake for adults.

"Lactating mothers should consume a wide variety of foods, so as to maintain a nutritionally rich composition of breast milk,” says Gordon Cheung, registered dietitian and project fellow of the Food Safety and Technology Research Centre (FSTRC) at Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU).

He added however that, in general, mothers’ breast milk was still sufficient to promote the healthy growth of babies, especially neonates to the age of 6 months, when diets usually are supplemented with additional foods.

The study shows 51 percent, 74 percent and 48 percent of the breast milk collected met the recommended daily intake calcium (200 mg/day), iron (0.3 mg/day) and iodine (85 μg/day) for babies in that age group, despite the low intake by mothers.

FSTRC researchers surveyed 95 lactating women and collected breast milk samples from May 2014 to August 2015. A three-day diet survey of the participants followed.

The findings, released on Tuesday, reveal that only 12 percent of mothers were getting the recommended daily intake of 1000 mg of calcium; 6 percent the recommended 24 mg of iron and 2 percent the recommended 240 μg of iodine.

The research team underscored the importance of a balanced diet for mothers, particularly during their pregnancy and nursing period. This is not only important to the health of the breast-fed infants but to the mothers as well, says Wong Man-sau, associate professor of PolyU's Department of Applied Biology and Chemical Technology and deputy director of FSTRC.

Cheung suggests mothers who are breast-feeding should increase the variety of the foods they eat to include dairy products, tofu, meat, legumes, seafood, seaweed, and so on. The enriched variety could prevent osteoporosis, anemia and hypothyroidism in lactating mothers. The three conditions are brought about by deficiencies in calcium, iron and iodine.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for infants up to 6 months of age.

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