The use of linear programming to determine whether breastfed infants can achieve a nutritionally adequate complementary feeding diet: a case study of 6–11-month-old infants from KwaMashu, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Objectives: The objectives of this study were to ascertain whether the nutrient requirements of 6–11-month-old infants can be met with a food-based approach, and to identify the nutrients of which it is difficult to achieve adequate intakes.
Design, setting and subjects: A cross-sectional survey and interviews with mothers and caregivers from the KwaMashu Community Health Centre were conducted. One hundred and thirty-four interviews were completed. This information
provided the food consumption input for the model using Optifood software.
Results: The results revealed that with the current food pattern of infants from the study group in KwaMashu, iron, zinc and calcium are nutrients whose requirements are likely not to be met in the diet. The percentage RNI (recommended nutrient intake) for iron was 25.2%, zinc 51.3% and calcium 77%. Nutrient intakes for these nutrients of concern improved in the ‘No pattern’ diet but iron and zinc intakes remained below the RNI. According to the best diets modelled by Optifood, it appears that infants in KwaMashu would be able to achieve the recommended intakes of energy, protein, and 8 of the 11 micronutrients, as long as breastfeeding on demand continues during the complementary feeding phase.
Conclusions: This study calls into question the continued food-based focus to ensure nutrient adequacy in infants. In conjunction with efforts to improve household food security and continued support and promotion of breastfeeding for
the first 2 years of life, targeted micronutrient supplementation may be needed to ensure the optimal growth and development of infants in South Africa.
Keywords: Optifood, complementary feeding, nutrient requirements, infant nutrition, South Africa
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