Parents and children can work together to study any links between children's nutrition and adult diseases by reading or viewing some of the best research available to the public. Scientists studied the link between children's nutrition and adult diseases, but what did they find? Researchers from the Department of Pediatrics of the University of Granada, in collaboration with another 38 universities and companies from 16 European countries, will study the effects of children’s nutrition on the onset of cardiovascular problems, diabetes, obesity, allergies, weak bones, neuromotor functioning and children’s behavioral aspects. The EARNEST project (The Early Nutrition Programming Project) aimed to help in the development of policies, information campaigns, documents, guides and recommendations on the nutritional components of children’s food, for the improvement of children’s formulas. It also collaborates in the design of plans preventing and avoiding nutrition effects on the metabolism.
Thanks to this project, the University of Granada becomes the only Spanish investigation center taking part in this ambitious initiative, the first of its kind in Europe. Cristina Campoy Folgoso, the professor heading this initiative in Granada, emphasizes that the “early nutrition programming” is quite a recent subject in the health and science field today. “Different studies show how food can have long-term consequences in children’s growth and health during pregnancy, the breastfeeding period and childhood. Moreover, food can also have influence over the later onset of diseases,” states the researcher, according to the January 15, 2008 news release, "Scientists study the link between children's nutrition and adult diseases."
Study of diseases
This project aimed to answer the question about the extent of nutrition effects of prenatal, postnatal, and infant diets of someone among the current European population in critical periods of development as well as the efficiency of actions preventing and avoiding long, medium and short-term metabolic effects on health.
The project tackled randomly assigned clinical tests and nutritional interventions during pregnancy and childhood, pilot studies, tests on animals, cells and genomita, as well as social and economic studies connected with nutrition in the first stages of life and their significance in the development of later diseases.
Researched hoped to find the genetic mechanism of diseases such as diabetes and obesity with this project. “Obesity, a growing global epidemic, begins, partly, during child development,"explains professor Campoy Folgoso in the January 15, 2008 news release, "Scientists study the link between children's nutrition and adult diseases."
The results compared natural, organic foods and beverages to commercial foods. For example, it's known that breastfed children’s growth kinetics differ from those fed with commercial foods. These children easily gain weight and height. Considering these consequences, linked with eating habits, the purpose of this project is to study whether breastfeeding can prevent a later risk of obesity.
That investigation that ended three years ago was financed by the European Commission and is made up of 38 multidisciplinary groups of professionals from 16 European countries. Scientists from different institutions of all over Europe were involved in it: 33 academic institutions, 5 industries and 7 PYMES companies form the project, coordinated by Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich (Germany). It began in April 2005 and lasted until 2010. For more information, check out the site, "Early Nutrition for the Public." Or see Science News - UGR.
And since last year another project is being researched. The new project title is the "Long-term effects of early nutrition on later health." The budget for this newer project is 11.12 million Euro, with the European Union's (EU) contribution 8.96 milllion Euro. It's known as Project No.: FP7-289346-EarlyNutrition.
The coordinator is Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Germany, Professor Berthold Koletzko, MD PhD. Project manager: Brigitte Brands, MBE, PhD (Dr hum biol). The project began on February 1, 2012 and will have a duration of 60 months.
Worldwide, EarlyNutrition is the largest project investigating programming effects for health in later life.
Researchers from 36 institutions in 15 countries in Europe, The United States and Australia have joined forces to study how early nutrition programming and lifestyle factors impact the rates of obesity and related disorders. The term programming effect refers to the finding that nutrition and lifestyle during pregnancy and infancy can affect a range of different bodily functions. These programmed changes in the body increase the likelihood of becoming overweight and the occurrence of associated diseases in later life. Such effects have been confirmed by earlier research by the FP6-funded Early Nutrition Programming project EARNEST.
Why The Early Nutrition Programming Project is being carried out
According to its website, metabolic programming.org, early nutrition programming is the concept that differences in nutritional experience at critical periods in early life, both pre- and post-natally, can program a person's development, metabolism and health for the future. This has been well-established in animal studies and there is a large amount of data from retrospective observational studies in people that suggest that a similar effect is seen in humans.
There is less data available from contemporary prospective studies and randomized controlled trials because these studies have not been running for long enough. The Early Nutrition Programming Project enabled the participants of these studies to be followed up into early adulthood in order to see whether the differences seen in childhood persist into adulthood.
The implications of early nutrition programming are huge - differences in risk factors for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity, in immune function and allergy risk, in bone health, and in cognitive, neuro-motor and behavioral outcomes have all been seen in children. The potential for improving the health of future generations is enormous.
This project also addressed other areas where not enough is known about early nutrition programming to enable sensible policies to be formulated. It gave an insight into when the critical periods are, how the effects are mediated and whether or not they can be reversed, the website explains.
What were the project's key objectives?
- Quantification of the effects of early programming on later cardiovascular diseases, obesity, diabetes, cognitive and mental disorders, bone health and some cancers (Themes 1-3), according to the project's website.
- Definition of the relative importance of critical periods in fetal and early life on later disease (Themes 1-3).
- Exploration of the impact of genetic determinants on early programming effects and on subsequent outcome (Theme 3).
- Understanding the role of specific nutrients and their interactions in the maternal and infant diet on programming effects on disease and their risk factors (Themes 1-3).
- Understanding mechanisms for early programming on later disease and their risk factors (Theme 3).
- Development of appropriate strategies for treating and especially for preventing the amplification of adverse programming effects of early nutrition (Theme 1).
- Exploration of the public health impact of how knowledge about early programming affects consumer behaviour (Theme 4).
- Quantification of the impact of early nutrition on the economic burden of adult ill-health (Theme 5).
- Demonstration projects to test the viability of new technologies that offer a potential economic advantage, but which cannot be commercialized directly (Theme 6)
- Improvement of training and enhancement of training opportunities for all including accession countries (Theme 8).
What did the project contribute?
- The best available data from trials and prospective studies in humans
- State of the art laboratory studies of mechanisms and critical time periods
- Classification of the key genes regulating metabolic processes related to programming
- Information on the social and economic costs of programming in Europe
- Evidence to guide improvements in the nutritional value of formula milks
- Data to help formulate policies on composition and testing of infant foods
- Interventions proven to prevent and reverse early nutritional programming
- The potential to develop new products through industrial partnership
- Creation of a virtual "Institute of Early Nutrition Programming"
- A new generation of internationally respected multi-disciplinary scientists
- Maximal impetus to maintain Europe's lead in this critical area of research.
The idea is getting kids interested enough in nutrition and food choices to actually take a look at what science projects about food and health are doing around the world. Get involved and learn how to read data from studies. In this case, you have the creation of a virtual Institution of Early Nutrition Programming. As for kids and those who work with them, including parents and teachers, just think of the possibilities of kids and adults working together to develop and put to use virtual institutions that look at what's being done or needs to be done as far as early nutrition for kids of all ages. For more information, check out the website of the Early Nutrition Academy.
Kids can develop an interest in the science of early nutrition and metabolic programming, the aims of the academy, trainings and post-graduate courses, useful links to research literature on early nutrition programming and information about future events and related fields of research. It's one more possibility for learning about projects in science that link food and health.