Researchers from the University of Buffalo have found that babies fed foods high in simple sugars (carbs) immediately after birth are prone to becoming overweight/obese as adults.
This is due to a period of developmental plasticity, extending from fetal development into the immediate postnatal period during which pancreatic islets and neurons continue to mature.
“That’s why an altered nutritional experience during this critical period can independently modify the way certain organs in the body develop, resulting in programming effects that manifest later in life,” UB researcher Dr. Patel says. “During this critical period, the hypothalamus, which regulates appetite, becomes programmed to drive the individual to eat more food.
For more than 20 years, Patel and his UB colleagues have studied how the increased intake of carbohydrate-enriched calories just after birth can program individuals to overeat.
For this study, the UB researchers administered to newborn rat pups special milk formulas they developed that are either…
- Similar to rat breast milk in composition, (higher in fat-derived calories) or
- Enriched with carbohydrate-derived calories.
“These pups who were fed a high-carbohydrate milk formula are getting a different kind of nourishment than they normally would,” explains Patel, “which metabolically programs them to develop hyperinsulinemia, a precursor for obesity and type 2 diabetes.”
What happened to the baby rats?
At three weeks of age, the rat pups fed the high-carbohydrate (HC) formula were then weaned onto rat chow either with free access to food or with a moderate calorie restriction, so that their level of consumption would be the same as pups reared naturally.
“When food intake for the HC rats was controlled to a normal level, the pups grew at a normal rate, similar to that of pups fed by their mothers,” Patel says. “But we wanted to know, did that period of moderate calorie restriction cause the animals to be truly reprogrammed? We knew that the proof would come once we allowed them to eat ad libitum, without any restrictions.
“We found that when the HC 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,” he says.
What does this mean to you?
- It may mean that you choose to breast feed your newborn
- It may mean that you choose baby formula with a macronutrient profile similar to breast milk
- It may mean that you ignore the study because it was performed on rats…and rats ain’t humans.
What happens if you choose #3?
According to the researchers, periods of moderate caloric restriction later in life cannot reverse the hypothalamic pro-obesity programming. This means that your little bundle of joy has a higher chance of becoming an obese adult…unless they choose to follow a calorie restricted diet for their entire life.
It’s your call Mom & Dad.