A major trial on European children is to examine how early childhood diet can reduce the risk of obesity in later life. The findings could lead to development of new infant foods and reformulating of protein contents.
Obesity is increasing steadily among European children, causing concern for the serious consequences seen in adulthood. Nutrients supplied during infancy are thought to have a lasting, programming effect on later obesity risk. There has also been some evidence to show that infants fed formula milk are more likely to become obese than breastfed infants although two studies published last week appeared to disprove this theory.
However, researchers on the Chopin project, funded by the EU Framework, point to evidence showing that longer duration of breastfeeding has a marked effect on reducing later obesity risk. One hypothesised reason for this, to be tested in the new trial, is the relative higher protein content of some infant formulae compared with breast milk.
A team from the Universidade Federal de Pelotas in Brazil reported in the BMJ last week that duration of breast feeding had no association with several measures including weight and body composition. A British study also confirmed these findings.
The new project will include a double-blind randomised multicentre intervention trial of healthy infants in five European countries, comparing isocaloric infant formulae with high and low protein contents, balanced by fat. The project will also evaluate the effects of different feeding regimes on a novel anthropometric marker - the difference between body length at two years and length at birth - on later obesity development.
Other measurements will include body composition, energy expenditure, protein metabolism, renal function, leptin and insulin-like growth factor-1.
The project, designed to promote the benefits of breast-feeding, is also expected to break new ground in providing data for producing infant formula with adequate protein. Babies have already been recruited for the two-year study, likely to be followed up until the age of eight years. A large cluster meeting, 'Perinatal nutrition and its later consequences: New opportunities', is to be held in July 2004 prior to the study finishing in 2005.
For more information on this trial, see the project website or contact the coordinator firstname.lastname@example.org" target="_self">Julia Rosen.