Early Nutrition Can Determine Good Life-Long Health

EU-funded research has discovered that good nutrition in the womb, and in the early stages of life, can affect our susceptibility to obesity, heart disease, chronic lung disease, diabetes and even cognitive functions. The findings have now been translated into practical advice which could have a hugely beneficial impact on the next generation in Europe. The EARNEST project utilised the knowledge of a team of scientists to identify the factors behind ‘early nutritional programming’ – it followed over 1000 children in five EU countries from birth up to the age of two, with a further follow-up after that. The goal of the project was to see what effects infant feeding had on obesity later in life. Results proved that infants fed with a low-protein content formula which is more similar to breast milk were significantly lighter than those on a high protein formula, when tested at two years of age. The differences which emerged at six months of age persisted, even after the intervention ceased.

The study shows that early growth predicts a reduced rate of obesity by as much as 13 percent at 14 to 16 years of age. The evidence is substantial and could promote ‘positive programmers’, such as breast milk, which not only affects future health through nutrients, but also through non-nutrient components. The research offers great potential for improving the health of future generations, as well as potentially combating the obesity crisis with future generations of children protected against it. This would not only improve the health of these individuals, but also reduce hospital costs due to a lower need for weight-related treatments. Obesity and the various associated problems are a growing concern, but this study could offer the answer to a future set of questions.

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