News article

New scientific findings related to nutrition and growth in children

Posted:  Thursday, February 13, 2014

The intestinal microbiota, and its modulation by probiotics, is one of many factors that may help reduce susceptibility to childhood obesity

Maternal malnutrition can have lifelong consequences on children

Today, the prevalent health issues of obesity and overweight are the fifth highest risk factors that contribute to the number of deaths across the globe. According to the World Health Organization, at least 2.8 million adults die each year as a result of being overweight or obese, while more than 40 million children under the age of five are overweight. As obesity is now reaching epidemic proportions worldwide, it is stimulating research to identify factors that affect energy balance.

Leading scientists in child development have discussed the relationship between nutrition and growth in children at the 2nd International Conference on Nutrition and Growth, sponsored by the Nestlé Nutrition Institute, which was held in Barcelona, Spain, on January 31, 2014. New scientific findings were highlighted in relation to probiotics in obesity, as well as the consequences of maternal obesity and under-nutrition in children.

Role of probiotics and prebiotics in obesity treatment or prevention
Prof. Hania Szajewska (Department of Paediatrics at the Medical University of Warsaw, Poland) shared new findings related to microbiota modulation by probiotics and their effects on growth and obesity. Current evidence suggests that gut microbiota plays some role in the development of obesity. If this is the case, it is logical to assume that the manipulation of the gut microbiota, such as through the administration of probiotics and/or prebiotics, could potentially be a preventive and/or therapeutic measure in the evolution of obesity.

Risk Factors for Growth and Development: maternal obesity and under-nutrition
Prof. Ferdinand Haschke (Nestlé Nutrition Institute in Vevey, Switzerland, and the Medical University in Vienna, Austria) highlighted that maternal malnutrition can result in the unfavorable (epigenetic) programming of fetal genes, which has lifelong consequences. Numerous studies have confirmed the association between maternal and childhood overweight. Children of overweight or obese women have a higher risk of becoming obese later in life, and the offspring generation of overweight mothers may die earlier. With regards to under-nutrition, about 30-40 % of children from low and middle-income countries have low birth weight and are stunted in growth mainly due to maternal under-nutrition. Prof. Haschke emphasized the importance of intervening early, ideally before or during pregnancy. This may involve weight reduction programs in overweight/obese women, as well as micronutrient and protein/calorie supplementation of underweight women.

You can find abstracts and videos from this event when they are released on Nutrition & Growth 2014