Monday, January 26, 2009
Photo by asplosh
I am confident that most people (and especially parents) would agree that childhood nutrition is important. After all, children who develop obesity are likely to maintain that obesity into adulthood, and we are seeing a disturbing increase in the prevalence of "adult" diseases like atherosclerosis and type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents. However, a recent study from my alma mater (the University of Calgary) suggests that a poor diet in early childhood can have long-lasting effects even in those who do not develop obesity at a young age.
In this recent study which is available ahead of print on the Journal of Physiology website, Maurer and colleagues fed rat pups a diet that was either high in protein, high in fiber, or a control diet. Once the rats had reached adulthood, they were switched to a diet that was high in fat and sugar (not unlike the typical North American diet) for a period of 28 days. Surprisingly, in response to this high calorie diet, the rats that had grown up consuming a diet that was high in fiber gained less weight and body fat than those who grew up consuming a diet high in protein. Further, rats that grew up on the high fiber diet also had significantly better glucose tolerance, suggesting that their metabolic risk was also lower than those who grew up on a diet high in protein.
How could early childhood diet influence an individual's response to a high calorie diet in adulthood? Maurer and colleagues report that the high fiber diet in childhood influenced the levels of glucagon-like-peptide 1 and leptin, two hormones which are known to affect satiety (the feeling of fullness) as well as insulin sensitivity and energy balance. The authors speculate that diet in early childhood may affect gene expression and hormone levels in ways that influence the body's response to caloric surplus well into adulthood.
So, what's the take-home message? Obviously if you are reading this blog post, it is too late to change your own early childhood nutrition. However, this study provides yet another reason to promote healthy lifestyles (including diet and physical activity) to people of all ages, in the hopes that they will pass them along to their children and grandchildren, and reduce their susceptibility to obesity and metabolic risk later in life.
For a full interview with Dr Raylene Reimer, the senior author of today's paper, please click here.
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