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Low Protein Intake in Infancy Reduces Childhood Obesity Risk

Posted:  Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Results of a European study -to be presented at an international conference this week - have revealed that a low intake of protein during infancy can reduce a child’s risk of becoming obese by the time they go to school. The study found that children at around six years of age have more than twice the risk of obesity if they were fed a high protein diet in infancy.

Speaking to Food Ingredients First, Professor Berthold Koletzko of Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich (LMU), said: "We strongly recommend breastfeeding as the first choice for infant feeding but if infant formula is used, then based on the results of our large randomized trial, we recommend parents choose an infant formula with less protein. We also recommend they avoid cows' milk as a drink (which provides a very high protein content) during the first year of life."

In addition, Professor Koletzo told FoodIngredientsFirst that the study also included the complementary feeding period once an infant had moved away from formula or breast milk. "Our analysis showed that the time of introduction of solid foods (aged four, five or six months of age) did not induce a different risk of later obesity," he said. "However, the choice of complementary feeding affects risk. In particular, later obesity risk is increased by overfeeding (too many calories), high amounts of sugar or sugared beverages and high amounts of milk protein, such as cow's milk as a drink."

The paper 'Lower protein content in infant formula reduces BMI and obesity risk at school age' is now published online on the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN) and the print publication will follow later this month. It was presented at the international 'The Power of Programming' Conference at LMU in Munich 13-15 March 2014.

"Optimal infant nutrition is of major importance because it lays the foundation for future health," explained study author Martina Weber. "Our results demonstrate that protein intake through infant formula affects BMI and obesity risk at school age. Avoidance of infant foods that provide excessive protein intake and promoting breast feeding may therefore effectively contribute to the prevention of childhood obesity."

The research has been supported within the EC funded Early Nutrition project, taking forward the work undertaken in the EC supported Childhood Obesity Project (CHOP) and the EARNEST project which revealed that low protein content in infant formula reduces Body Mass Index (BMI) and obesity risk in later childhood. Early Nutrition is co-ordinated by Professor Berthold Koletzko of Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich (LMU).

Babies were initially enrolled in the study, which involved researchers from Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium and Poland, between October 2002 and July 2004. After their parents had made the decision to formula feed, the infants were 'randomized' to receive either a high or low content formula.

Early nutrition is recognised as a key factor in the effective prevention of childhood obesity. One of the best predictors of future obesity risk is weight gain during the first year of life, and protein intake is associated with more rapid weight gain during infancy.

In 2009, the CHOP study reported that the babies given a higher protein formula had gained more weight during their first year and were heavier at two years of age than those fed lower protein (published in AJCN, 2009).

These latest results involve the same cohort of children followed up to the age of six (of the 1090 babies enrolled, 518 (48%) have continued to participate in the study to school age). In the higher protein group, BMI was 0.51 kg/cm higher at six years of age and the risk of obesity was 2.43 times higher.

Martina Weber, Veit Grote, Ricardo Closa-Monasterolo, Joaquín Escribano, Jean-Paul Langhendries, Elena Dain, Marcello Giovannini, Elvira Verduci, Dariusz Gruszfeld, Piotr Socha, Berthold Koletzko, and for The European Childhood Obesity Trial Study Group Lower protein content in infant formula reduces BMI and obesity risk at school age: follow-up of a randomized trial Am J Clin Nutr 2014 ajcn.064071

For study details:-Click Here!