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Infant nutrition: the 1000 days that can last a lifetime

Mark Greener explains that dietary patterns in early life have long-lasting effects on a child’s health

Towards the end of the Second World War, people living in the Netherlands faced a famine. Official daily rations for adults fell from about 1800 kcal in December 1943 to between 400 and 800 kcal from December 1944 to April 1945. Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers were entitled to additional rations. At the height of the famine, however, the government could not provide any extra food. Although church organisations, foraging, the black market and other sources sometimes supplemented the official rations, the nutritional status of pregnant and breastfeeding mothers suffered.1

Children born to women who were pregnant during the Dutch famine experienced numerous physiological consequences that persisted well into adulthood, including a more atherogenic lipid profile and an increased risk of glucose intolerance, obstructive airway disease, cardiovascular conditions and breast cancer.1 The tragedy of the Dutch famine illustrates starkly that maternal diet can affect a child’s health for the rest of their lives.

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