Whole grain intake is associated with many health benefits and a reduced risk for many chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and colorectal cancer(1, 2). Currently, no research exists profiling the whole grain intakes of Irish pre-school children however, this life stage is a fundamental time for the development of taste preferences and healthy food choices(3). The aim of this study was to investigate the whole grain intakes of Irish pre-school children and to profile patterns of intake. Data was analysed from the National Pre-school Nutrition Survey (NPNS; n 500), which used a 4-day weighed food-intake diary; collecting data on habitual food and beverage intakes in a representative sample of 1–4 year olds (www.iuna.net). Brand information, including ingredient listings, was subsequently recorded in the Irish National Food Ingredient Database (INFID)(4), with each brand linked to consumption data. In the current analysis, the presence or absence of whole grain was confirmed at food and brand level, and information on the grain ingredients present were ascribed using food package labelling, comparable products and recipe databases specific for the NPNS. Whole grain content was calculated as dry matter, whereby the water content (%) and the dry matter whole grain content (%) of whole-grain ingredients were established.
a,b Mean values with unlike superscript letters were significantly different between mean daily intakes of whole grain (ANOVA with Bonferroni post-hoc correction). Mean values were significantly different when P < 0·05
The mean daily intake of whole grain in the total population were 18·4 g/d, with 97% of pre-school children classified as consumers. Wheat sources contributed the most to whole grain intakes (65·8%), followed by oats (20·5%). Whereby ‘Ready-to-eat breakfast cereals’ (50%) followed by ‘bread and rolls’ (24·3%) provided the greatest contribution to whole grain intakes. Correspondingly, breakfast had the highest number of whole grain consumers (91·8%, n = 459). High consumers of whole grain had significantly higher intakes of fibre, iron, vitamin B12 and folate, and lower intakes of sodium (p < 0·05). The present study shows that while a high proportion of pre-school children are whole grain consumers, overall dietary intakes are low. Development of an applicable recommendation is necessary for this age group as currently none exists.
This study was funded by the Irish Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food under the Food for Health Research Initiative (2007–2012).