The first 1'000 days determine the future

Obesity is a hot topic. And it is a problem that is increasingly relevant to infants and children. The latest studies show a link between early nutrition and obesity in later life. Leading research in this area has been undertaken by the EU-backed “Early Nutrition” project. It studies the important relationships involved in the first 1,000 days of life.

Baby fat is im­por­tant – but when does it stop being a ques­tion of nor­mal puppy fat and start be­com­ing a bat­tle against ex­cess weight? It is strik­ing that even the very young are now strug­gling with ex­cess weight in their day-to-day lives with in­creas­ing fre­quency. Sta­tis­tics show that as many as 22 per cent of seven to eleven year olds in Switzer­land are over­weight. A north-south di­vide has been iden­ti­fied in Eu­rope (see di­a­gram). In Italy for in­stance, 36 per cent of this age group are con­sid­ered over­weight – in Ger­many the fig­ure is just 16 per cent.

There are sim­i­lar sta­tis­tics from other con­ti­nents. In Mex­ico, 28 per cent of boys suf­fer from obe­sity; in Libya it is 26 per cent and in India 21 per cent. Even China, at 6 per cent, is see­ing ris­ing num­bers of obese boys. Obe­sity in­creases the risk of di­a­betes, skele­tal de­for­ma­tion as well as heart and cir­cu­la­tory dis­ease. It is for this rea­son that the WHO (World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion) has de­scribed child obe­sity as a global prob­lem.

These are the cir­cum­stances under which the “Early Nu­tri­tion” re­search pro­ject was launched. Its ob­jec­tive is to re­search the nu­tri­tional habits of young chil­dren from birth for the first 1,000 days of life. Some im­por­tant con­nec­tions have al­ready been es­tab­lished in the time since the pro­ject’s in­cep­tion in 2012. We now know that the human me­tab­o­lism is largely shaped and de­vel­oped dur­ing preg­nancy and the first two years of life. This makes it sub­ject to ex­ter­nal in­flu­ences in the first 1,000 days – ei­ther by breast­feed­ing or by using ap­pro­pri­ate – or in­ap­pro­pri­ate – for­mula for in­fants and tod­dlers.

"Ear­lyNu­tri­tion" re­search pro­ject

With EU sup­port, sci­en­tists from twelve mem­ber states as well as Nor­way, the USA and Aus­tralia are in­ves­ti­gat­ing nu­tri­tional ten­den­cies af­fect­ing the first 1,000 days of a child’s life i.e. from con­cep­tion to the end of the child’s sec­ond year. For more in­for­ma­tion, go to

The pos­si­bil­ity of change

Given this con­text, the “Early Nu­tri­tion” pro­ject is look­ing both at fac­tors that af­fect moth­ers dur­ing preg­nancy such as lifestyle, diet and body mass and also con­sid­er­ing the mech­a­nisms that de­ter­mine nu­tri­tion in the early years. The ob­jec­tive is to find ways of avoid­ing neg­a­tive in­flu­ences on the child. One so­lu­tion is to pre­vent ex­ces­sive weight gain in chil­dren in the first two years of life. Oth­er­wise the me­tab­o­lism grows ac­cus­tomed to a high en­ergy in­take dur­ing this pe­riod and de­vel­ops a false feel­ing of hunger. Pre­ven­tive mea­sures such as breast­feed­ing are far more ef­fec­tive than at­tempt­ing to change the me­tab­o­lism at a later stage.

Guid­ance on re­search, de­vel­op­ment and mar­ket­ing

The re­sults of the “Early Nu­tri­tion” pro­ject and the global knowl­edge trans­fer re­lated to it are in­flu­enc­ing the de­vel­op­ment of nu­tri­tion dur­ing preg­nancy as well as the de­vel­op­ment of in­fant for­mula and foods for small chil­dren and young per­sons. Our re­search and de­vel­op­ment de­part­ment is draw­ing on this sci­en­tific ev­i­dence and we place great store on at­tend­ing in­ter­na­tional sym­posia and main­tain­ing links with the re­search in­dus­try. Nu­tri­tional ex­perts now be­lieve that our in­dus­try’s prod­ucts can have a far more pos­i­tive in­flu­ence on pro­gram­ming the me­tab­o­lism than pre­vi­ously thought.

Nu­tri­tional ex­perts now be­lieve that our in­dus­try’s prod­ucts can have a far more pos­i­tive in­flu­ence on pro­gram­ming the me­tab­o­lism than pre­vi­ously thought.

In­fant for­mula – main­tain­ing a bal­ance be­tween calo­ries and nu­tri­tion

We are seek­ing to en­sure that both mother and child re­ceive the right food at the right time. In de­vel­op­ing in­fant for­mula this cur­rently means de­vel­op­ing for­mu­la­tions with high-qual­ity pro­tein. With the ex­cep­tion of spe­cial milks, our HOCHDORF in­fant for­mula and fol­low-on milks des­tined for the EU mar­ket are al­ready low in fat-pro­duc­ing pro­teins and the pro­tein is of the very high­est qual­ity.

Milk prod­ucts for ju­niors and moth­ers com­bat poor nu­tri­tion

Across the globe many chil­dren have a diet that is too rich in en­ergy and too lack­ing in vi­t­a­mins.

The tra­di­tional high-pro­tein, high-fat cow’s milk does not offer the best so­lu­tion for every child. And stan­dard low-fat milk has the draw­back that it fails to meet chil­dren’s nu­tri­tional re­quire­ments in re­gions where the diet is one-di­men­sional.

This ex­plains the grow­ing im­por­tance of ju­nior milk: it serves as a sup­ple­ment in coun­tries where there is a nu­tri­tional need. The iron, vi­t­a­min A, vi­t­a­min D, io­dine and spe­cial fatty acids con­tained in ju­nior milk are im­por­tant el­e­ments in the men­tal and phys­i­cal de­vel­op­ment of in­fants and young chil­dren. Whereas chil­dren’s diets often con­tain too much pro­tein and too few high-qual­ity fats and vi­t­a­mins tra­di­tion­ally, ju­nior milks can even be adapted to re­gional cir­cum­stances.

The same ap­plies to milk prod­ucts for ex­pec­tant and breast­feed­ing moth­ers. Dur­ing preg­nancy, ex­pec­tant moth­ers have greater en­ergy and vi­t­a­min re­quire­ments. The ad­di­tional calo­rie in­take should be of a high qual­ity so that the in­fant me­tab­o­lism main­tains its cor­rect bal­ance. Un­like the nu­tri­tional sup­ple­ments com­monly avail­able on the mar­ket, milks for ex­pec­tant and breast­feed­ing moth­ers are sub­ject to the same strict reg­u­la­tions as in­fant and ju­nior for­mu­lae. In ad­di­tion to high-qual­ity vi­t­a­mins and min­er­als, In ad­di­tion to high-qual­ity vi­t­a­mins and min­er­als, they con­tain healthy fibre and valu­able lac­tose in­stead of sugar.

In­creas­ing re­gion­al­i­sa­tion of prod­ucts for in­fants and moth­ers

We all live in an en­vi­ron­ment that sig­nif­i­cantly af­fects our diet and there­fore our me­tab­o­lism. Re­search re­sults from the “Early Nu­tri­tion” pro­ject show that milk prod­ucts for moth­ers and in­fants are not avail­able to every­one. Re­gional ad­just­ments to for­mu­la­tions will be­come more com­mon in the fu­ture. We there­fore aim to tai­lor our prod­ucts to spe­cific needs and this means tak­ing ge­o­graph­i­cal and phys­i­o­log­i­cal dif­fer­ences re­gard­ing nu­tri­tion into ac­count.

Facts and figures on obesity



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There are two im­por­tant points to bear in mind. First, by fol­low­ing a bal­anced diet an ex­pec­tant mother gives her child the best pos­si­ble start in life. Sec­ond, the baby should avoid ex­ces­sive weight gain in the first two years of its life. The basis for this is a bal­anced diet where an ap­pro­pri­ate range of foods is avail­able.

If par­ents choose to use in­fant for­mula and milk prod­ucts for ex­pec­tant and breast­feed­ing moth­ers, our prod­ucts sup­port these two im­por­tant areas for the baby’s de­vel­op­ment – and thanks to cur­rent re­search we can do this even more ef­fec­tively.

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