Impact of early nutrition on health
As part of the Raine Study, our nutrition researchers have been investigating a variety of nutritional factors, from early infant feeding up to adolescent diets, in order to understand the impact of early nutrition on later health. Findings have included:
- Dietary assessments of participants at 17 years of age showed teenagers consumed less than the recommended amount of calcium, magnesium, folate, vitamin D and vitamin E
- B vitamins can affect the mental health and behaviour of teenagers
- A Western dietary pattern (high in takeaway foods, red and processed meat, soft drink and fried and refined foods) has been associated with poorer cognition in adolescents
- A lower fructose diet may help to protect adolescents with obesity from fatty liver disease.
Our researchers also have been investigating the dangers of sugary drinks. They found teenagers who drank more than one standard can of sugary drinks a day had lower levels of 'good cholesterol' and higher levels of the ‘bad' triglyceride form of fat in their blood.
Other studies showed that sugary drinks have a role to play in the increased risk of liver disease in teenagers, and that there was a significant link between the consumption of energy drinks and anxiety levels in young men.
Breastfeeding is the most optimal and important start to life. Extended breastfeeding will reduce the likelihood of a child developing ear and chest infections, asthma, and obesity and diabetes both as an adult and child. However, breastfeeding can sometimes be problematic – including when a breastfeeding mother consumes alcohol.
Recently Telethon Kids Institute researcher Dr Roslyn Giglia investigated whether maternal health professionals knew of the disruptive effect alcohol has on breastfeeding hormones, and whether they were aware of the national recommendations for drinking alcohol while still breastfeeding.
The research found few of the health professionals who participated in the study were aware of the problems alcohol can cause for breastfeeding women and their infant. They also were not aware of the national recommendations around alcohol and breastfeeding.
Work has begun to try and turn these results around via education and training of health professionals. The Institute has also had input into the up and coming review of the national NHMRC Australian alcohol guidelines.