FITS Study Reveals Infant Nutrition Insights in UAE

Results from the Feeding Infants and Toddler Study (FITS), a first of its kind research endeavor in the United Arab Emirates, have provided the country?s first scientific insight into feeding practices among UAE national and Arab non-national infants in their first 1,000 days of life.

The study was conducted by United Arab Emirates University, the University of Sharjah, and Tathqeef health treatment undertakings services, in partnership with the American University of Beirut and Nestl? Research which designed the methodology and covered financing of the study.

Key findings from the FITS study, which surveyed UAE nationals  and Arab non-national infants and toddlers aged 0-2 years in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah, were that 18% are at risk of becoming overweight and 7% are overweight or obese; that main micronutrient inadequacies consist of Iron, impacting 47% of infants 6-12 months old and 11% of 1-2 year-olds; and Vitamin D, impacting 53% of 1-2 year-olds; and that 84% of 1-2 year-olds in the country do not meet recommendations for fruit consumption, 59% do not meet recommendations for milk/dairy consumption, and 49% do not meet recommendations for lean meat and beans consumption.

?Studies like FITS  are essential to establishing a good level of understanding on nutrition and dietary patterns of infants and children during the crucial first 1,000 days of life, a period that is critical to forming dietary habits that define health throughout our lifetime,? said Professor Ayesha Salem Al Dhaheri ? Associate Provost for Student Affairs, United Arab Emirates University. ?We are proud that the UAE now has such concrete findings that will help guide the formulation of evidence-based interventions as well as nutrition-related policies for infants and young children in the country.?

FITS studies have recently been conducted by Nestl? and local partners in select countries around the world, including China, Lebanon, Mexico, and the United States.

?We will continue to work with partners in the region to gather and raise awareness of scientific facts on eating habits that will spur our product innovations to better meet local and regional nutritional needs through fortifications and other offerings, and help guide national policies,? said Sophia Jalal, Business Executive Officer, Nestl? Nutrition, Middle East and North Africa.

The results of the study were first unveiled at the virtual International Growth & Development Conference 2021, during a specific FITS KIDS Symposium entitled ?Nutritional status and complementary feeding practices in infants and toddlers: Findings from the FITS study.?

One of Nestl?s key published commitments to society is to further provide nutritionally sound products designed for children, with nearly 40 offerings in that range currently available in the Middle East and North Africa.

The Feeding Infants and Toddler Study (FITS):

The Feeding Infants and Toddler Study (FITS) is a dietary intake survey of large cross-sectional samples of parents or caregivers of infants, toddlers, and pre-schoolers. The objective of the FITS is to learn about the nutrient intakes and nutritional needs of infants, toddlers and young children and to understand what foods are being consumed at different ages when the diet of young children is rapidly changing.

The Kids Nutrition and Health Study (KIDS):

The Kids Nutrition and Health Study (KIDS) is a largescale research that will provide snapshots of eating patterns, nutrient intakes, child lifestyle and behavior factors, and healthy weight indicators of children ages 4-12 years of age.

FITS KIDS in the Middle East and North Africa:

In 2016, Nestl? Research in Switzerland and AUB completed the micronutrient landscaping research, which studied key micronutrient deficiencies affecting 0-12 year-old children in the region.* The review was conducted for Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, and Jordan. Its findings provided insights on gaps and challenges in nutrition and dietary intake, and demonstrated a triple burden of malnutrition, where overweight, under nutrition, and micronutrient deficiencies co-exist.

As deeper understanding was required for the MENA region, Nestl? Research initiated in 2019 a large-scale nutrition study for the UAE.  The methodology and investment are led by Nestl? Research.

Full results from FITS KIDS studies are expected in 2021, to help further build, share, and apply children nutrition knowledge in the region.

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