Project leader, professor Berthold Koletzko from the University of Munich, said the 2-year+ EARNEST project showed that infants up to two years of age fed lower protein formulas closer to breast milk weighed less than infants fed high-protein formulas.
The weight differential continued after six months when both sets of infants moved onto similar diets. If projected forward the difference would be as high as 13% at age 14-16.
“This research has enormous potential for improving the health and well-being of future generations, reducing costs for health care and social services, and for enhancing the productivity and wealth of societies,” said professor Koletzko.
The infants in the trial were from five EU countries.
The researchers pointed to non-nutritive elements of breast milk that may deliver health benefits and could explain the weight findings.
EARNEST partners also developed evidence-based recommendations for dietary fat intake in pregnancy, during breastfeeding, and in infancy.
It explored parental decisions on nutrition and lifestyle, and the messages that influence those decisions.
Professor Koletzko said his experience of the project was like that of a, “mountaineer, who has reached one summit, only for another to appear behind it. More research is required to fully understand how environmental factors adversely affect long-term outcomes and the extent to which the mother is able to protect her child against them.”
More about the €16.5m project can be found here.