High-Carbohydrate Intake After Birth Has Long-standing Effects
In an animal study, high-carbohydrate intake after birth led to detrimental long-term effects. Rats fed a high-carbohydrate intake after birth programmed their hypothalamus to overeat. The newborn rats were fed high-carb milk formulas that programmed their bodies to develop high insulin production (hyperinsulinemia) in the blood.
When the baby rats were 3 weeks old, the researchers switched them to regular rat chow and gave them free access to food or provided them with a moderate calorie restriction. Dr. Mulchand S. Patel, PhD. said,
“We found that when the [high-carbohydrate intake] rat undergoes metabolic reprogramming for development of obesity in early postnatal life, and then is subjected to moderate caloric restriction, similar to when an individual goes on a diet, the programming is only suppressed, not erased.”
Patel explains that previous research has shown that the pancreatic islets and neurons continue to mature during the immediate postnatal period. This study showed that an altered nutrition during this crucial period could change the way specific organs in the body develop. This change in development can lead to programming effects that carries into adulthood. If food intake is altered during this critical period, the hypothalamus gets programmed to increase food intake. This study revealed that even a moderate caloric restriction in adulthood could not undo this programming effect from infancy.
From this study, we can see how infant nutrition relates to obesity in adulthood. The American Academy of Pediatrics Guidelines explains that we should not give babies solid food until there are 4-6 months old. If we follow these guidelines, we can provide adequate nutrition to our babies that will not program their bodies to overeat in the future.
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American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism March 2013