Brain development is the most sensitive when it comes to baby nutrition between mid-gestation and two years old. If a child is malnourished and truly deprived of adequate calories and protein in their diet, during this time period they will not grow physically or mentally. Babies and infants have smaller brain sizes than normal because of reduced dendritic growth, myelination, and the production of fewer gila, or supporting cells in the brain that continue to form after birth. Gila is also responsible for producing myelin.
Inadequate brain growth demonstrates why malnourished children suffer lasting behavioral and cognitive deficits. This includes slower language and motor skills, lower IQ and poor school performance.
After birth, brain growth relies heavily on the quality of a child’s nutrition. In some of the most common baby foods, though, there have been traces of arsenic, lead and mercury. Too much exposure to these metals can lead to issues with a child’s brain development. Learning, cognition, behavior and attention will also be affected. Even though a child’s exposure to heavy metals is likely minimal, it is still crucial to keep it that way.
Heavy Metals in Baby Food
There really is no safe dose of these metals as it relates to brain development, but there are plenty of other risk factors that can affect healthy brain development. There are environmental exposures, genetic and social factors, access to developmental resources and support too.
In certain areas, there are different routes of lead exposure. One area might be through paint and soil. Another spot, it could be water. Then there is arsenic which is released into the environment as a pollutant and is also naturally found in soil. Communities with high arsenic levels in soil could very well affect water.
This issue with heavy metals is that they can occur naturally in the soil and can also be released into the environment. With food being grown within the presence of these metals, it isn’t uncommon for the hazards to hang around when food is harvested and then processed. A perfect example is rice. It is a relative to other grains and grown in an area with high arsenic levels. Then there is concern for when it reaches consumers, that it is tarnished with arsenic. Contaminants could also happen during manufacturing and packaging.
Reducing a baby’s exposure to toxic metals like lead can be done by following a few simple steps.
- Serve a variety of foods- a well-balanced diet for children that includes fruits, vegetables, grains and lean proteins is a great way to start. Eating a variety of healthy foods, rich in essential nutrients can lower exposure to heavy metals or other contaminants found in foods.
- Read the labels- multi-ingredient baby food blends are a good option. Exercise caution as many have the same first or second ingredients. There are different flavor blends like kale and pear or spinach and pumpkin that might actually have sweet potatoes at their first ingredient. Make sure you read the ingredient labels to offer a true variety of foods to children.
- Switch up grains- some infant cereals can be a good source of nutrition for babies. Rice cereal does not always have to be the first or only cereal used. Rice absorbs more arsenic from groundwater than any other crop. Include oats, barley, couscous, quinoa, farro and bulgur in your baby’s diet. Avoid using rice milk and brown rice syrup because sometimes that is used as a sweetener in processed toddler food.
Call Kwartler Manus in Philadelphia Today
If you have further questions and concerns regarding your baby’s diet don’t hesitate to reach out to your pediatrician. They can provide you with the most up to date and accurate information when it comes to feeding your baby. You should call Kwartler Manus in Philadelphia at 267-214-8608 to schedule a consultation if your baby was sickened by baby food.