Dr Sandra Einerhand, founder and consultant at Einerhand Science & Innovation, said: “It is not very well known among consumers and among the different food and beverage industries that the first 1000 days is a window of opportunity for long term health.
“This applies to almost all regions around the world, in developed as well as developing countries. We have to reverse the rise of non-communicable diseases (NCD) like stunting, obesity, diabetes and allergies. According to WHO, NCD are causing 60 % of all death across the world and this will rise by 17% within the next decade. The costs of treating these diseases will bankrupt our health care systems by the year 2030 and so we have to act now. “
Einerhand is one of the key speakers at this year's Food Vision Conference in Cannes.
Her widely anticipated presentation entitled ‘Early years nutrition – the importance of the first 1000 days in setting up health for life’ is a call to action urging industry to pioneer products and technologies which will help parents make healthy choices for their baby.
Need for a balanced healthy diet
Einerhand told FoodNavigator that one of the main challenges faced by mothers during pregnancy and lactation is the need for a balanced healthy diet adapted to specific nutritional needs.
She said: “Over – as well as under -nutrition lead to increased risk in non-communicable diseases (NCD) like stunting, obesity, diabetes and allergies and thus it affects long term health outcomes.
“During my talk I will highlight some examples. For certain vitamins and minerals (e.g. iron, iodine, zinc, Vit A, B and folic acid) the requirements go up during pregnancy and lactation and so these should be supplemented to the women.
“Some women might know they should take extra folic acid and iron but most of the women might not know that iodine, zinc, vitamin A and B requirements go up too. In addition, Vitamin D status in many women of child baring age is low and so Vit D supplementation is recommended in many countries and experts have also recommended to supplement with DHA (fish oil) on a daily basis for a healthy brain development.”
Einerhand, who has worked in pediatric research for over 20 years, has spent the last five years studying nutrition during the first 1000 days.
She added that, for the infant, it is important that it is exclusively breast fed for the first six months. After that period complementary foods should be given on top of the breast feeding.
No compromise on quality
She noted, however that exclusive breast feeding rates are generally low.
Einerhand suggested two possible solutions to this problem:
1. Encourage mothers to exclusively breast feed until six months and make them aware of the importance of the first 1000 days for long term health of their baby.
2. Infant formula should be given to the baby that mimics breast milk if, for any reason, it is still not possible for them to breast feed.
Einerhand said: “Infant formula companies should to do their best to make infant formulas that mimic breast milk as close as possible and come up with affordable options for low and middle income countries without compromising on quality.”
Interested in finding out more? Meet Dr Sandra Einerhand at Food Vision, the leadership forum for the nutrition industry. Food Vision takes place from 2-4 March, Cannes France. Book your place now by clicking here.