Long-Term Health Impact of Early Nutrition: The Power of Programming

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Abstract

The Power of Programming conference 2016 at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich brought together about 600 researchers and other stakeholders from around the world who reviewed the recent evidence on the lasting health impact of environment and nutrition during early life, from pre-pregnancy to early childhood. The conference was hosted by the Early Nutrition Project, a multidisciplinary research collaboration funded by the European Commission with collaborating researchers from 35 institutions in 15 countries in Europe, the United States and Australia. The project explores the early origins of obesity, adiposity and associated non-communicable diseases, underlying mechanisms and opportunities for prevention. The project also proactively supports translational application of research findings. In fact, some existing evidence has already been rapidly adopted into policy, regulatory standards and practice. Further, broad dissemination of findings is achieved through the established digital eLearning platform of the Early Nutrition eAcademy, video clip-based learning and graphically supported messaging to consumers. The project demonstrated powerful effects of early metabolic programming on later health. Compared to other common prevention strategies, modifying risk trajectories in early life can achieve a much larger risk reduction and be more cost-effective. While some effective prevention strategies have been promptly implemented in policy and guidelines, legislation and practice, in other areas, the uptake is limited by a paucity of quality human intervention trials and insufficient evaluation of the feasibility of implementation and econometric impact. This needs to be strengthened by future collaborative research work.

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