Early Life Nutrition Report Highlights Importance of Diet Before, During and After Giving Birth

By Petrina Smith
Tuesday, 19 August, 2014

nutritionMothers should consider their nutrition during pre-conception, pregnancy and before a child turns three to help protect against the threat of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and allergy in later life, according to a new Early Life Nutrition Report
A panel of medical experts has developed the Early Life Nutrition Report that provides an overview of early life nutrition research findings and practical, evidence-based recommendations to maximise nutritional status before and during pregnancy, as well as during infancy and early childhood, when the foundations of future heath are created.
“Pre-conception, pregnancy, infancy and early childhood represent critical windows of opportunity for parents to adopt lifestyle changes and nutritional strategies that can improve foetal and childhood development and lower the risks of their children developing certain allergic and metabolic diseases in later life,” said neonatologist, Associate Professor John Sinn.
The rapid increase in prevalence of metabolic and allergic diseases is a significant global health problem, with a growing body of evidence now showing that maternal and paternal nutrition are critical to optimising pregnancy outcomes and longer-term health of the offspring.
“Most women know what not to eat during pregnancy, but not enough parents recognise the things they can do to reduce their child’s risk of disease in later life,” said Dr Sinn.
In addition to providing evidence of the link between early life nutrition and long-term health, the Report also contains recommendations to maximise foetal and childhood development during the period in which the key foundations of future health are formed.
“Nutrition is one of the most easily modified environmental factors during early life, and has been shown to strongly influence foetal growth and development, as well as the risk of  metabolic and allergic disease in childhood and adult life,” said Dr Sinn.
In Australia, three in five adults are overweight or obese and one in four children are overweight or obese. Type 2 diabetes is considered the fastest growing chronic condition with approximately one million Australians diagnosed with the disease. Additionally, food allergy affects approximately one in 20 children and hospital admissions for severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) have doubled in the past decade.
“The Report highlights the preventative health benefits of early life nutrition and points to the need for further investment into longitudinal research projects that map development and health over a lifetime,” said Dr Sinn.
“Planning, expectant and current parents should be informed of the significant role of good early life nutrition in ensuring the long-term health of their children,” said Dr Sinn.
The Early Life Nutrition report was developed by a panel of expert physicians and scientists comprising:

  • Professor Peter SW Davies, Queensland Children's Medical Research Institute, University of Queensland

  • Professor John Funder, Prince Henry’s Institute

  • Associate Professor Debbie Palmer, University of Western Australia

  • Associate Professor John Sinn, University of Sydney

  • Associate Professor Mark Vickers, The University of Auckland

  • Associate Professor Clare Wall, The University of Auckland

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