The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition report said new research suggested infants between the ages of six to 12 months who consumed meat could have an advantage when it came to early length growth.
It suggested infants during the beginning of their lives had a period of rapid growth, and introducing meat, particularly pork, would bring many nutritional benefits.
In the study, 64 formula-fed infants ate meat-based complementary foods, such as puréed ham and beef, and dairy-based complementary foods for seven months.
Researchers found that puréed meats promoted a greater rate of growth – with a length of nearly one inch greater compared to the dairy-fed group.
“Meat, such as pork, provides important micronutrients, is an excellent source of protein and can be an important complementary food for infants who are ready for solid foods,” said lead study author Minghua Tang, assistant professor of paediatrics at the University of Colorado.
“Our research suggests introducing higher amounts of protein and introducing meat, such as pork, into the diet at five months could be potentially beneficial for linear growth (length gain).”
Other bodies have supported the new research, with the World Health Organisation recommending infants eat meat and poultry daily, while the US Department of Agriculture and the US Department of Health and Human Services are also planning to expand the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines to include guidance on infant nutrition.
The research also prompted a response from the National Pork Board, who described the new research as “exciting”.
“It shows nutrient-rich pork can play an important role in the whole family’s diet,” said the National Pork Board’s manager of nutrition, communications and research Adria Huseth. “It’s nutrient-rich, as well as a versatile, affordable and accessible protein.”
More research is expected to be covered by the University of Colorado into the long-term effects of including pork in infant diets for growth.