Childhood obesity is currently a worrying trend in many developed nations of our increasingly fast-paced world. The vast majority amongst us would probably host notions that childhood obesity is the result of a sedentary childhood spent mostly indoors and an unhealthy proportion of junk food. Contrary to popular belief, research has actually pointed to childhood obesity being preventable, or at least making its risk controllable, within the first thousand days of a child’s birth!
“Early nutrition” is the term used to refer to the nutrients a child receives during this stage of life, and it is largely controlled by the mother. Substantial studies have established that the quality of early nutrition exerts long-haul programming effects which predispose a child to the risk of becoming obese later in life. At a press event spearheaded by Nestle Nutrition Institute on the 21st of May 2015, Professor Berthold V. Koletzko, head of the Division of Metabolism & Nutritional Medicine at Dr. von Hauner Children’s Hospital in Germany, was in Singapore to discuss early nutrition and childhood obesity. He also touched on the health effects of protein supply in infancy.
It is most likely well-known amongst young mothers that the consumption of protein has metabolic effects on a baby’s health. But did you know that it is important to avoid extremely high intakes of protein within the first year of birth? A trial conducted by the European Commission showed that decreasing protein content in infant and follow-up formula can reduce the risk of obesity later in life. What’s more, breast-feeding is viewed as a more favourable mode of nutrition due to its link with lower risk of obesity during school-going years and adolescence.
Observational studies have concluded that breast-feeding lessens the chance of obesity at school-going age by a whopping 20%! Hence, there is a legitimate cause for the natural mode of nutrition to be encouraged, protected and supported. If you are a new mother, you are strongly urged to breastfeed your baby for at least the first six months – the low protein content of breast milk decreases the risk of weight gain during the span of your child’s infancy.
What else should expectant and new mothers take note of with regards to early nutrition? It is essential to steer clear of other high-in-protein sources during the first twelve months of your child’s life. Specifically, Professor Koletzko advises, feeding your baby cows’ milk should be avoided during the first year of growth as it can significantly increase the supply of protein. Opting for follow-on formula with reduced protein content during the weaning period is highly encouraged.
The round-table discussion led by the esteemed professor also debunked another common myth. It is not the rapid weight gain during the first weeks and months of a child’s life that decides his or her predisposition to the risk of childhood obesity. In fact, it is the quick weight gain within the comparatively lengthy span of the first two years of life which is associated with an increased risk of obesity later in life. It has been concluded possible that decreasing the intake of dietary protein in early childhood, beyond early infancy, roughly during the span between six and twenty-four months, could be an extremely simple, yet worthwhile method of reducing the long-term obesity risk in our young and future generations.
The studies led by Professor Koletzko have aided in shedding some light on the mystery behind the risk of childhood obesity. They have also positively reiterated the need for babies to be breastfed. It would be best to nourish your child the natural way, unless the option has been ruled out on medical grounds. Afterall, nature knows best!
For more information on Nestle Nutrition Institute, click here.