Growth & Metabolism / Optimal Growth

A focus on the impact of early life nutrition

Infants and young children have very different nutritional needs compared with adults;1 preterm infants are in need of even greater nutritional support because of suboptimal foetal development.2

Find out more about our research in preterm nutrition here.

Nutrition during early life has key impact on physical growth, cognitive development, immune maturation, development of digestive systems, and development of healthy eating habits of the infant.3

At Danone Nutricia Research, we have a heritage of expertise and knowledge in the areas of growth and metabolism. Our passion is discovering more about how nutrition impacts growth, development and body composition in preterm and term infants, toddlers and mothers-to-be. We use these insights to develop nutritional products that enable optimal growth within these patient/consumer groups.

Our research is focused on the impact of early nutrition on growth, body composition and metabolic development during the first years of life.

Through increasing our knowledge on the metabolic load (the effort required by the body to use or store nutrients), bioavailability, and kinetics of micro- and macronutrients, we have gained insight into the role of nutrition in the growth and development of term and preterm infants. In addition, we are unravelling the mechanisms underlying metabolic programming, e.g. sustained effects of early nutrition on later life metabolic health.

Early life nutrition influences quality of growth.

Emerging evidence exists that not only the total amount of body fat, but also the distribution of body fat, especially the deposition of visceral fat, determines the risk for metabolic and cardiovascular diseases in later life. Over the last few years, in close collaboration with international experts, we have explored the development of body composition and body fat distribution in early life using state-of-the-art, new developed measurement techniques.4,5 We observed that growth trajectories during the foetal and infancy period influence body fat distribution6 with lasting effects in childhood.7

These insights once more emphasise the importance of early life nutrition supporting this ‘quality of growth’ during the first 1000 days.

Research over the past decades has led to significant improvements in fat quality of infant formulas (e.g. by the addition of LC-PUFAs) as well as protein quality (casein-whey ratio) facilitating a reduction in total protein to better meet the nutritional needs of the growing (healthy) infant.

Nuturis® – our revolutionary infant formula technique

Dietary lipid structure influences the way lipids are absorbed and used in an infant’s body for energy use and storage.8–10 This could partially explain the difference in growth and body composition development between formula-fed and human milk fed infants and the subsequent differences in risk for metabolic health complications or disorders in later life.11–13

Influencing body composition

At Danone Nutricia Research, we have developed a gentler processing technique and added milk fat globule membrane to a concept formula. This has resulted in the patented nutritional innovation Nuturis®, large, phospholipid coated lipid droplets (mode diameter 3-5 μm) that mimic the structure of lipids in human milk.14 We have shown that infants fed Nuturis® displayed growth and body composition development more closely resembling that of breastfed infants.

View References

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Unicef, 2001. The state of the World’s Children.
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Breij LM. et al. Pediatr Obes, 2017;12(4):286-294.
Durmus B. et al. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf), 2010;72(5):633-40.
Vogelezang S. et al. Int J Obes (Lond), 2016;40(4):595-600.
Baumgartner. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2017. Apr 19. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2017.50. .
Vors. Am J Clin Nutr 2013;97:23-6.
Michalski EUR J LIPID SCI TECH 2009;111:413-31.
Dewey KG, et al. Am J Clin Nutr 1993:57;140-5.
Bergmann KE, et al. Int J Obes. 2003;27:162-72.
Rzehak P, et al. Eur J Epidemiol. 2009;24:449–467.
Gallier, et al. Biointerfaces 2015;136:329–339.