68th Nestlé Nutrition Institute Workshop Early Nutrition: Impact on Short- and Long-Term Health

Washington DC, USA 17 October 2010 - 21 October 2010


The 68th Nestlé Nutrition Institute Workshop: Pediatric Program on "Early Nutrition: Impact on Short and Long-Term Health" was chaired by Prof. Hans VAN GOUDOEVER (NL), Prof. Stefano GUANDALINI (USA) and Prof. Ron KLEINMAN (USA) More and more research findings are supporting the fact that nutritional practices and feeding behaviors in early infancy and childhood influence not only the immediate growth and health of the child, but potentially affect long-term health such as development of obesity or hypertension. In the first part of the 68th Nestlé Nutrition Institute workshop the influence of certain nutrients and functional ingredients on the offspring in the perinatal period were discussed. It was shown that the maternal diet and more specifically a diet low in n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids can negatively influence brain morphology and influences appetite, so that infants over eat after restriction to n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Single amino acids were demonstrated to influence health of preterm babies. Threonine for example, an amino acid important for gut mucus development may help thus to prevent from necrotizing enterocolitis. Finally, a recent meta-analyses has shown that specific probiotic strains, e.g. Bifidobacterium lactis , can reduce the risk of non-specific gastro-intestinal tract infections in infants beyond early infancy. Results from recent surveys such as the FITS study in the USA and data from Russia and India revealed that in both the developed as well the developing world, even in countries with vibrant economies, a significant number of infants and young children are not consuming the types of foods that have been recommended to support optimal health. As a consequence, an insufficient intake of selected micronutrients, such as iron and zinc, is highly prevalent, particularly in the developing world. Taste perception plays an extremely important role in food preferences. With the current emphasis on reducing the intake of salt and sugars in the diet, the discussion of the science of taste perception and in particular how it develops during gestation, infancy and early childhood contributed significantly to the overall dialogue on nutritional support during this period. In addition to availability, affordability, taste and cultural preferences, the increasing prevalence of allergic reactions to foods during this time of life often determine the types of foods offered. Finally, the last session focused on the consequences of weaning and subsequent feeding practices on health during late adolescence at adulthood. Information were provided on the influence of early feeding practices on the later development of a number of health-related issues, such as: food allergies, later food preferences and eating habits, obesity, bone development, the risk of developing celiac disease in genetically predisposed children, and even – albeit at the moment mostly from studies in animals – on longevity!