All toddlers should be given a cup of special milk enriched with vitamin D and iron every day, say paediatricians in a clinical study. Researcher Alida Melse at the Human nutrition department thinks the conclusion is premature. ‘Before you come out with general recommendations you need to get a better picture of the situation nationally.’
What was studied?
‘From this study, sponsored by Nutricia and looking at more than 300 toddlers in the Netherlands, Germany and Great Britain, it appeared that one in five children have a vitamin D deficiency and one in ten an iron deficiency. Toddler milk would prevent most cases of deficiency, concluded the researchers. They compared the effects of toddler milk with those of standard cow’s milk.’
Isn’t it enough for toddlers to get a healthy diet?
‘Yes, but even then it can be difficult to get all the essential nutrients. The nutrient requirements of growing children are not in proportion to their energy needs.’
Is toddler milk the solution?
'In composition, toddler milk is much more like breast milk than cow’s milk, but it is also a lot more expensive. The participants in the study got the milk free. The question is whether parents will buy it if they have to pay for it themselves. And the deficiency problems are worst precisely in the lower social classes.’
What about breastfeeding then?
'Breast is best. The WHO recommends breastfeeding babies for at least six months. But this study was about toddlers of between 12 and 18 months. Most women in the Netherlands have stopped breastfeeding by then.
What are we to do with these findings?
‘The study does raise a problem on which further research is needed. This was a clinical study in which a selected group of children were studied, most of them in Germany. Before you come out with general recommendations you need to get a better picture of the situation nationally. If these kinds of deficiencies are found in Dutch toddlers, we should certainly do something about them.’