Carbohydrate quality of nutrition in the first thousand days of life
Nutrition in early life is increasingly considered to be an important factor influencing later health. Taste preferences are formed in early life that will influence food preferences in childhood and beyond. Therefore, food quality and feeding practices are crucial to prevent obesity later in life. Here we focus on the impact of carbohydrate quality of nutrition and feeding practices in early life.
The first 1000 days of life, from conception until the infant is 2 years of age, is a critical window of opportunity for nutrition. During this period, the diet can induce epigenetic changes in the DNA and/or changes in the gut microbiome of the infant that have long-lasting effects on health. In early life, breast milk is the best nutrition for the infant. According to a recent position paper by the European Society of Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN), infants should be exclusively breastfed for at least the first 4 months, whereas a desirable goal is to exclusively or predominantly breastfeed for around 6 months (1). However, globally less than 40% of infants under 6 months of age are exclusively breastfed (2). Thus, to date not every mother can or wants to breastfeed and bottle feeds instead.
One of the main components of breast milk is lactose. It is the primary carbohydrate found in breast milk. Lactose is also the very reason that makes breastfed babies thrive as it provides the calories needed to fuel their growth. In addition, lactose that is not absorbed in the small intestine of the infant will end up in the large intestine to sti ...