University of Venda, South Africa
Mahopo Tjale Cloupas completed his Master of public nutrition from the University of Venda and currently studying for his Post graduate diploma in Health Education with the University of Cape Town. He is a lecturer at the University of Venda, Department of Nutrition. He has published three papers and a co-investigator in the Malnutrition and enteric diseases study, a multi country study. He is a registered Nutritionist with the Health Professions council of South Africa.
Inappropriate feeding practices damage the gut mucosa of the small intestine in infants. The aim of this study was to determine the impact of feeding practices on gut function in infants at Dzimauli. A prospective birth cohort study was done in Dzimauli community in Limpopo Province, South Africa. Recruited children were 133. Data on feeding practices was collected twice weekly using the 24 hour recall. Infant mothers were informants. Lactulose: mannitol (L:M) data was collected at 3, 6 and 9 months. Almost all mothers (92.5%) breastfed their infants. However, there were no children who were exclusively breastfed for six months. On average, exclusive breastfeeding occurred for only 21 days. Mother’s age had negative correlation on the introduction of weaning food. Water and infant formula were the first “early foods” introduced. Solids and tea were also indicated as weaning foods. There were no children who had optimal feeding. Gut function results indicated poor intestinal permeability affecting 67.6 %, 55.3% and 43.5% of infants at 3, 6 and 9 months respectively. Gut function was conversely proportionate with age of infants. No significant relationship was observed between duration of exclusive breastfeeding and gut function. Type of “early food” introduced at 3 month determined the intestinal permeability and could do so for subsequent months. Poor trends of infant feeding still prevail in Limpopo Province, South Africa. Type of food and the age at which food was introduced impacted on gut function. Further investigation on mother’s non-compliance with recommended feeding practices calls for attention.