‘Early nutrition’ refers to the metabolic status of an unborn child and the status during its first two years after birth. Currently research into how early metabolism affects later life is limited.
After receiving €11.12m in funding in 2012, including €8.96m from the European Commission, the EarlyNutrition consortium was established as a consortium in Munich to drive international research into obesity.
Institutions from 12 EU member states, the US and Australia have collaborated with the project.
‘An absolute consensus’ on obesity
The consortium found that obesity during pregnancy and during a child’s early life will typically triple the child’s own risk of obesity in later life.
Overweight parents will similarly double that risk.
Rhonda Smith, a spokesperson for EarlyNutrition, told FoodNavigator:
“There is absolute consensus now that what healthcare professions must endeavour to do is to talk to everybody of potential child bearing age about the impact of being overweight or obese during pregnancy and at the time of conception… really the message has to be that people have to think about this at a much earlier stage.
“We need the food industry’s cooporation for helping consumers to consume in a much healthier way and I guess that healthcare professions believe the industry can do an awful lot more in helping consumers change the things they are taking off the supermarket shelves.”
The project released a set of key recommendations following their findings:
- Pregnant women must not ‘eat for two’
- No cow’s milk for babies during their first year of life
- Breast feeding mothers must eat a balanced diet
- Both parents must achieve a healthy weight prior to conception
Women with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or over are considered on that scale to be overweight or obese, and the report recommends women achieve a BMI lower than this before conceiving a child. Fathers should also take the same responsibility, as their weight at the point of conception will have a similar effect.
Early Nutrition has set up a separate website, EarlyNutritionAcademy, to educate the public on their findings. Full information on the studies, dietary information and their impacts is provided there for consumers and those in the food industry.
Smith said “We would encourage the food industry to be looking at the impact that the kind of products they are producing can actually have, and to support consumers to be better informed. Maybe studying this information should be compulsory.”
The project is set to finish in January 2017, but Smith indicated researchers are looking for ways to extend this.