The diabetes-focused EarlyBird study is being conducted by the Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry in the UK and has been backed to continue the pursuit of health and nutrition data for the 300 participants who are now aged in their late teens. The project that began in 2000, has ongoing backing from companies like UK insurance firm, BUPA, food firms and NGOs.
Nutritional inputs and lifestyle in childhood and teen years and the later development of diabetes and obesity are of particular interest.
Bridging the puberty data gap
The Nestlé Institute of Health Sciences (NIHS) is one partner that has renewed its commitment to the research with a fresh €476,000 investment as the project moves into its third phase.
“We know a lot about what are the factors that impact on our health in infancy, adulthood and old age, but there’s a real gap in our knowledge when it comes to puberty and adolescence,” said François-Pierre Martin from NIHS.
“This research will go a long way towards bridging that gap. Having the opportunity to extend this work as the cohort now enters adulthood means we can further enhance our understanding of how lifestyle choices during our formative years affect us later in life.”
NIHS said its role was to measure bodily levels of metabolites like amino acids, sugars and antioxidants to help build “a comprehensive view on the body’s activity and response under different conditions.”
In a statement NIHS said: “By studying the factors which predispose an individual to conditions such as obesity and diabetes and better understanding the requirements for optimal growth, the researchers hope to develop novel approaches to prevent and manage health.
“As such, this work will provide a major contribution to NIHS’ mission of better defining and maintaining health through the development of science-based targeted nutritional solutions.”
Early v later nutrition needs
Work by NIHS scientists published in the November-December edition of Infant Nutrition last year, highlighted the importance of early life nutrition to later life health outcomes.
“Growing evidence points towards the critical and long-term involvement of pre-natal, childhood nutrition and lifestyle on later health and disease risk predisposition,” they wrote.
“Childhood, including the critical period of puberty, is a continuous and highly complex process involving major biological and physiological modifications that lead an individual from infancy towards adulthood. Whilst it is assumed that metabolic and nutritional requirements of infants and adolescents are similar to those of an adult, scientifically sound evidence suggests there is actually a lack of knowledge on how to address these needs in children and adolescents.”
They added: “In this, omics technologies can generate a systemic view of childhood on which to develop a better understanding of the changing physiology of growing infants in combination with specific biochemical pathways.”
“Changing nutrition at a critical period of development in early life can affect the subsequent pattern of growth and development of tissues and organs, and may predispose individuals to several disorders later in life. Optimal prenatal nutrition can reduce the risk of obesity in adults by influencing birth weight.”