What we feed our children today determines their growth and development, influences their eating behaviour and habits, their lifelong health and future learning. Moreover, the way we produce, manufacture, distribute and consume food today puts a strain on the environment and natural resources. In fact, food is the most powerful lever for optimising human and planetary health. Given this crucial role of food, there is an urgent need to promote diets that not only support health and wellbeing, but also have a low impact on the environment. In 2019, the FAO/WHO set guiding principles for sustainable and healthy diets that also affect how we feed our children today and tomorrow. For more information, see the following infographic.
Nutritional status from childhood through to early adulthood, periods of bone growth and development, have lasting effects on bone health status. Poor nutrition may compromise the achievement of peak bone mass thus causing an earlier bone loss in an individual. However, new breakthroughs are showing that the gut microbiome may be a potential way to reinforce nutrition, and in turn bone strength. Learn more about the gut-bone axis, its mechanism of action, and the possible opportunities it presents for improving bone strength in this infographic.
Preterm infants have distinct physiological characteristics compared to term infants, which result in high and unique nutritional needs.
Child nutrition has improved overall in recent decades. However, reductions in stunting and wasting have been offset by a rise in childhood obesity, making the diets of most children in most countries inadequate. Overlapping malnutrition issues are particularly prevalent in poorer communities. Climate change also threatens food security, therefore alongside changes in food systems and a multi-sectoral approach, early interventions are recommended. These include pushing for breastfeeding which has health benefits for the mother and child, and a shift to a plant-rich diet which not only contributes to proper nutrition but is also more sustainable.
Delayed introduction of complementary feeding for high-allergenic foods does not reduce allergy risk, as evidenced by the LEAP, EAT and PETIT clinical trials. There has been a shift in recommendations from avoidance to controlled exposure which aids in the achievement of tolerance. It was found that early introduction of allergenic foods, between 4-6 months of age, was beneficial in high-risk infants.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted food systems and healthcare provisions. But what has been the impact on child nutrition and how is this being addressed? Breastfeeding during SARS Cov-2 infection as well as COVID-19 vaccination of lactating women should be encouraged but was a challenge due to different limitations.
Human milk oligosaccharides or HMOs support the development of a healthy immunity shown by a growing body of evidence. Interestingly, the underlying mechanisms seem also to play a role in allergy. This is further supported by new evidence that points to a promising pathway for HMOs in the context of allergy prevention and management.
Cow's milk protein allergy or CMPA is one of the most common food allergies in infants. CMPA is also a real challenge for clinicians to rapidly diagnose those truly affected and to identify those who will benefit from the management of cow's milk protein allergy. Find out more information on the algorithm for CMPA diagnosis and management.