Complementary feeding and bone health: a systematic review

Am J Clin Nutr. 2019 Mar 1;109(Suppl_7):872S-878S. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqy227.


Background: Proper nutrition during infancy and toddlerhood is crucial for supporting healthy growth and development, including bone health. Complementary feeding is the process that starts when human milk or infant formula is complemented by other foods and beverages, beginning during late infancy and continuing to 24 mo of age.

Objectives: This article aims to describe systematic reviews (SRs) conducted by the Nutrition Evidence Systematic Review team for the USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services Pregnancy and Birth to 24 Months Project to answer these questions: what is the relationship between 1) timing of introduction of complementary foods and beverages (CFBs) or 2) types and/or amounts of CFBs consumed and bone health? Methods: The literature was searched with the use of 4 databases (CINAHL, Cochrane, Embase, and PubMed) to identify articles published from January 1980 to July 2016 that addressed these topics and met predetermined criteria for inclusion. For each study, data were extracted and risk of bias was assessed. The evidence was qualitatively synthesized to develop a conclusion statement, and the strength of the evidence was graded.

Results: Three articles addressed the timing of introduction of CFBs and bone health during childhood (through 18 y of age), and 2 addressed the types and/or amounts of CFBs consumed relative to bone health.

Conclusions: Insufficient evidence was available to draw conclusions about the relationships between the timing of CFB introduction and types and/or amounts of CFBs consumed and bone health. Therefore, a grade was not assignable for these SRs. The ability to draw conclusions was limited by an overall lack of research, failure to adjust for several key confounding factors, and heterogeneity in studies with regard to methodology, subject populations, and results. Additional research is needed that addresses these gaps and limitations.

Keywords: bone development; bone health; complementary feeding; complementary foods and beverages; infants; nutrition; systematic review; toddlers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent Health*
  • Beverages
  • Bone and Bones*
  • Breast Feeding
  • Child Health*
  • Diet*
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Food*
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*