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The role of infant nutrition in the global epidemic of non-communicable disease

  • Atul Singhal (a1)

Abstract

Non-communicable diseases (NCD) and atherosclerotic CVD in particular, are the most important health problems of the 21st century. Already in every world region except Africa, NCD account for greater mortality than communicable, maternal, perinatal and nutritional conditions combined. Although modifiable lifestyle factors in adults are the main determinants, substantial evidence now suggests that factors in early life also have a major role in the development of NCD; commonly referred to as the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease hypothesis. Factors in utero, early postnatal life and throughout childhood, have been shown to affect NCD by influencing risk factors for CVD such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension and dyslipidaemia. Infant nutrition (e.g. breastfeeding rather than bottle feeding) and a slower pattern of infant weight gain have been shown to be particularly protective against later risk of obesity and CVD in both low- and high-income countries. The mechanisms involved are poorly understood, but include epigenetic changes; effects on endocrine systems regulating body weight, food intake and fat deposition; and changes in appetite regulation. As a consequence, strategies to optimise early life nutrition could make a major contribution to stemming the current global epidemic of NCD. This review will consider the role of early life factors in the development of NCD, focusing on the impact of infant nutrition/growth on obesity and CVD. The review will highlight the experimental (randomised) evidence where available, briefly summarise the underlying mechanisms involved and consider the implications for public health.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

Corresponding author: Professor A. Singhal, fax 020 7831 9903, email a.singhal@ucl.ac.uk

References

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The role of infant nutrition in the global epidemic of non-communicable disease

  • Atul Singhal (a1)

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