Association Between Excess Postnatal Protein Intake and Accelerated Weight Gain During Infancy and Increased Risk of Adult Obesity

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Topic(s): Nutrition Health & Wellness Obesity Nutrition & Disease Management

Excess Protein Intake During Infancy and Risk of Adult Obesity

Evidences from many studies indicate that infants fed with high-protein formulas are at a higher risk of increased weight gain compared to breastfed infants. This weight gain during infancy may be more pronounced in infants of overweight mothers and is associated with increased risk of childhood and adult obesity. This publication in the Nestle Nutrition Institute Workshop Series discusses three clinical trials assessing the impact of low- and high-protein formulas on weight gain in infants.

A comprehensive meta-analysis analysed the results from 1150 infants from 9 clinical trials across 4 continents. The infants were exclusively fed with a whey-based low-protein formula (1.8 g/100 kcal) with essential amino acids similar to that found in breast milk until 4 months of age. The results showed that the growth of infants was in accordance with the World Health Organization (WHO) growth standards for 0-4 months. Two randomised trials tested a new low-protein formula (1.61–1.65 g protein/100 kcal) in infants between the ages of 3 and 12 months. The findings of the first trial suggested a lower weight gain in infants on the low-protein formula between 4 and 12 months of age (in accordance with WHO growth standards) compared to infants on high-protein formula. In addition, reduced incidence of weight >85th percentile was observed in infants fed the low-protein formula. The second trial involved infants of mothers with body mass index >25 kg/m2. The findings indicated lower weight gain in infants fed with low-protein formula (similar to the breastfed reference group) compared to those fed with high-protein formula between 4 and 12 months, and this effect continued until 24 months. The low-protein formula fed groups in both the trials demonstrated biomarkers of protein metabolism similar to that found in breastfed infants.

Feeding nonbreastfed infants with low-protein formulas is cost-effective and provides long-term health economic benefits. In addition, it also leads to less rapid weight gain during infancy and consequently results in decreased risk of childhood and adult obesity.

News Source: Haschke F, Grathwohl D, Detzel P, et al. Postnatal high protein intake can contribute to accelerated weight gain of infants and increased obesity risk. Nestle Nutr Inst Workshop Ser. 2016;85:101-109