Child health dependent on feeding babies the right amount of fat and
14 January 2014
The EU-funded research project Early Nutrition aims to obtain hard
evidence that the diet of babies in the first months of life and of the
mother during pregnancy determines the health of the child later in
Hans van Goudoever, professor of paediatrics and chair of the
department of paediatrics at VU University Medical Centre,
Amsterdam, the Netherlands, talked to youris.com about his hopes to
drastically improve the health of future generations by giving
nutritional advice to pregnant women and young mothers.
Has the project produced any surprising results so far?
We have found a relation between nutrition in the first stages of
life and a staggering amount of afflictions including obesity, heart
diseases, high blood pressure, cholesterol levels, as well as
connections to IQ. And we are now close to practical application.
For instance, we found that young infants with a low-protein diet
are far less likely to suffer from obesity in later life. So we have
developed bottle feeding with less protein and we are tested it on
piglets. The results are excellent and tests on humans are about to
Why do we need to study early nutrition?
Epidemiological studies, which go back as far as 25 years, have
shown that birth and infant weight have an effect on the occurrence
of cardiac problems later in life. But that is just a description of
a relation, not a scientific proof. These days we want hard
evidence. One group of children will get nutrition type A, another
group will get type B. Then, we’ll keep following them in order to
prove there is a specific effect. That’s what the project is all
At what stage is it possible to influence child nutrition
Nutrition during pregnancy and the first months of life is key.
Later on, there is still an influence but it gets smaller with time.
After birth, the choice between breast feeding and bottle feeding is
very easy, from a nutrition perspective. Breast feeding is at least
ten miles ahead. I know there are many reasons why sometimes
breastfeeding is impossible; the mother may not have the
opportunity, or she is taking medicines. But if at all possible
every effort should be taken to choose breast feeding. It is logical
after all. Bottle feeding is made from cow milk, and cows are
different from people.
What advice could you give to mothers of very young
Above all, avoid excess proteins and fat. Special care should be
taken to make sure babies have a diet wherein the protein and fat
content is just right. Not too little, but certainly not too much.
If you have a normal diet, you do not need anything else. Just
forget about extra vitamins and minerals, as long as your diet is
balanced. That is not easy these days. The groups where we see the
most problems include, quite often, the people from the lower social
classes, who are rather difficult to reach with information or
nutrition campaigns. What I do hope is that we can ultimately get
the message across to the hard-to-reach public.
The EarlyNutrition project:
Source: youris.com & CommNet