Driving research in infant and children’s nutrition: a perspective on
Deshanie Rai and Brian Larson
As part of theworkshop entitled ‘‘Early Risk Determinants and Later
Health Outcomes: Implications for Research Prioritization and the
Food Supply’’ (8–9 July 2008, Washington, DC), which was cospon-
sored by the International Life Sciences Institute of North America
and the International Life Sciences Institute Research Foundation,
representatives of the food industry discussed the practical applica-
tion of nutrition science. Nutrition plays a key role in guiding health
outcomes throughout the life cycle. In particular, the prenatal, post-
natal,and earlychildhoodperiods are extremely sensitivetothepres-
ence ofappropriatenutrition. Agrowingbody ofevidenceshowsthat
early nutrition may program the unborn and the infant’s key phys-
iologic systems, including the endocrine, cardiovascular, and central
nervous systems, to influence later life outcomes. While scientists in
academia continue to explore the multifactorial nature of early risk
determinants and later life outcomes at a mechanistic and basic sci-
ence level, itis important tounderstand the potential ofthe infant and
child food industries to address questions such as, what factors have
been noted to drive research in these sectors of the food industry?
How can scientists in these industries work alongside the scientists
in academia and in government to set priorities, make decisions
around these health issues, and translate academic insights into in-
novative nutritional solutions for the benefit of public health? Given
the commitment of the infant and child food industries to deliver sci-
entifically supported early life nutrition, it is easy to understand why
this industry would work in partnership with both the scientists in
academia and the government to identify a means of addressing
the fundamental questions of this workshop.
Am J Clin Nutr
the life cycle, including body weight gain, cardiovascular health,
neural and mental capabilities, and the development and function
of immunity. In particular, the prenatal, postnatal, and early
childhood periods are extremely sensitive to the presence of
appropriate nutrition. There is a growing body of evidence
showing that early nutrition may program the unborn and infant’s
and central nervous systems, to influence later life outcomes. The
workshop cosponsored by the International Life Sciences In-
stitute of North America and the International Life Sciences
Institute Research Foundation entitled ‘‘Early Risk Determinants
of Later Health Outcomes: Implications for Research Prioriti-
zation and the Food Supply’’ focused primarily on the relative
influence of genetics and environmental factors on determinants
of risk within the developmental stages of pregnancy, infancy (0–
12 mo), and early childhood ?5 y of age, particularly in relation
to specific nutrients and food components. In addition, repre-
science in this area may be practically translated to benefit the
Many questions remain unanswered, such as when during each
period early nutrition most critically affects the mechanisms
that influence later life outcomes. While scientists in academia
continue to explore and dissect the multifactorial nature of early
risk determinants and later life outcomes at a mechanistic and
basic science level, it is important to understand the potential of
the infant and child food industries to address such questions.
More specifically, what factors drive research in these industries?
How can scientists in these sectors work with scientists in ac-
ademia and in government to set priorities, make decisions
around these health issues, and translate academic insights into
innovative nutritional solutions for the benefit of public health?
Fetal development is a dynamic process from conception to
birth. Nutrient adequacy is crucial to the growth of physiologic
role of B vitamins in fetal development. Folate and choline are
methyl donors and have been shown to reduce single nucleotide
polymorphisms that may lead to system deformities (1, 2).
Children of women consuming folate-adequate diets have re-
duced the incidence of neural tube defects in North America (3).
In addition, women consuming diets low in choline have a
4-times-greater risk of having a baby with neural tube defects
(4) and 1.75-times-greater risk of bearing a child with a cleft lip
and palate (5).
The fetal nutrition interrelations of folate, choline, vitamin
B-12, vitamin B-6, and the amino acid methionine are being
studied to better recommend daily intakes for women. As the
methods of determining fetal nutrient needs and understanding
the epigenetic effects of nutrients accelerate, the list of critical
nutrients and their optimal intakes will increase. On the basis of
1From Mead Johnson Nutritionals, Evansville, IN (DR), and the Kellogg
Company, Battle Creek, MI (BL).
2Presented at the workshop ‘‘Early Risk Determinants and Later Health
Outcomes: Implications for Research Prioritization and the Food Supply,’’
held in Washington, DC, July 8–9, 2008.
3Reprints not available. Address correspondence to D Rai, Mead Johnson
Nutritionals, 2400 West Lloyd Expressway, Evansville, IN 47721. E-mail:
Am J Clin Nutr 2009;89(suppl):1S–3S. Printed in USA. ? 2009 American Society for Nutrition
AJCN. First published ahead of print March 11, 2009 as doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.27113I.
Copyright (C) 2009 by the American Society for Nutrition