Dr Spalinger, research has shown an increase in obesity among babies and young children. Does your experience in your day-to-day work confirm this trend?
Dr J. Spalinger: We are observing an increase in weight problems and obesity at the hospital, mainly in young children, and it is giving us cause for concern. Many families are unaware that an overweight child has a far higher risk of suffering from obesity in adult life.
What advice is given to overweight parents currently on to how to avoid possible obesity in their baby or young child?
Dr J. Spalinger: The information should be provided during pregnancy because the expectant mother’s diet is an important factor in subsequent weight problems for the child. As paediatricians we support mothers in breastfeeding where possible and also work together with counselling centres for parents on the importance and introduction of solid foods and regularly monitor the weight (and growth) of the young children.
What is your experience of the metabolic reprogramming of young children?
Dr J. Spalinger: Unfortunately, a metabolic reprogramming is rarely possible because programming has largely taken place during pregnancy. However, we do know that the type and composition of nutrition in the first 12 months of life i.e. in infancy can have a significant impact on the possible development of obesity. Breastfeeding is recognised as the best form of prevention. High-quality infant formula is available if it is not possible to breastfeed an infant. The latest findings highlight how the quantity and quality of the protein content of infant formula significantly influences weight acquisition in the first year of life. Bottle- fed infants show a substantially greater weight gain than breastfed babies. Babies with increased weight are at greater risk of being overweight in later life. Various studies have shown that a slight reduction in the protein content in infant formula arrests weight gain in the first year of life, making it more comparable to the weight development of breastfed infants. This means that a slight reduction in protein content in infant formula might lessen the risk of obesity in later life.
Dr. Spalinger, thank you very much for the interesting discussion.
- Interview with Dr. med. J. Spalinger talking about the "increasing obesity among babies and young children"