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The First 1000 Days: The Impact of Early Nutrition on Babies

The First 1000 Days: The Impact of Early Nutrition on Babies

Doctors and midwives agree that what babies eat in the first 1000 days of their life determines their food preferences as they grow older. In science, this phenomenon is called "Metabolic imprinting" or "Metabolic programming". It refers to the period between gestation and the first 1000 days which plays a crucial role in setting up the child's metabolism for the rest of its life. In other words, the impact that nutritious food has on babies during this period of rapid growth and development, is significant. It is also during this time that a baby's taste palette is developed and it learns something new every day.

To be even more specific, one of the chapters from The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, volume 69 - “ Potential mechanisms of metabolic imprinting that lead to chronic disease” defines the team “Metabolic Imprinting” as:

“ …The basic biological phenomena that putatively underlie relations among nutritional experiences of early life and later diseases. The term is intended to encompass adaptive responses to specific nutritional conditions early in life that are characterized by:

1) A susceptibility limited to a critical ontogenic window early in development, 

2) A persistent effect lasting through adulthood, 

3) A specific and measurable outcome (that may differ quantitatively among individuals), and 

4) A dose-response or threshold relation between a specific exposure and outcome”1

Researchers in the study above assert that imprinted behaviour “cannot be forgotten” and occurs only during “a narrowly-defined period in the individual's life”. Therefore, it is critical to introduce a nutritious diet that includes lots of vegetables and little sugar during this window of opportunity. Introducing vegetables during complementary feeding helps your child develop a preference for them as he or she grows older. This lays an important foundation for eating practices that also contributes to reduced associated health risks during adulthood.(1)

A diet rich in vegetables is also beneficial for your baby because of the complications that “Fruit only” products can create in their tiny bodies due to high levels of Fructose. Fructose is a sugar found naturally in food sources. It is absorbed by the small intestine and then processed into glucose by our liver. In children, malabsorption of fructose is common due to the developmental delay in the ability of the small intestine to absorb fructose. The unabsorbed sugar remains in the small intestine can become a site for bacterial fermentation and can cause chronic non-specific diarrhea. The accumulated gas produced by fermentation of unabsorbed carbohydrates in the colon may also cause abdominal pain and discomfort. In children aged 1-3, it is found that some of the biggest sources of fructose are fruit and fruit products and are thus consumed in large quantities by children leading to many gastrointestinal complications.(2) 

Vegetables on the other hand are much lower in sugar and have more fibre than fruits. In the study “ The Relationship between Vegetable Intake and Weight Outcomes: A Systematic Review of Cohort Studies”, it is noted that vegetables also play an important role in weight management. This is an important consideration because according to studies by the World Health Organization, the rise of obesity globally also increases the risk of many related diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and cancers.(3) Additionally, two other scientific articles “Savoring Sweet: Sugars in Infant and Toddler Feeding”(4) and “The Development and Public health implications of food preferences in Children”(5) also highlight that children typically have an innate preference for sweet and an aversion to vegetables, especially bitter tasting ones. However, both studies emphasize the importance of limiting sweet by early and repeated exposure to a vegetable rich diet. This is because sugar has no nutritional value and food high in added or natural sugar can result in developing unhealthy eating practices in addition to many associated health risks such as diabetes, weight gain, dental cavities or associated cancers.

In short, understanding the importance of the first 1000 days in a baby’s life, we at Pumpkin Organics have based our nutritional philosophy around food that is rich in vegetables, low in sugar which thereby ensures that our tiny tots become healthy eaters as they grow older.

Stay tuned to learn more about our nutrition philosophy and how we hope to make the first 1000 days a healthy and delicious food experience for your little one.

If reading these scientific articles have made you or your little one hungry already, make sure you check out our delicious veggie purees here.

Click here to check out our recipes and bring out the creative genius in you.

Works Cited

  1. Robert A Waterland, C. G. (1999, Feb 01). Potential mechanisms of metabolic imprinting that lead to chronic disease. Retrieved from The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 69: https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/69/2/179/4694116
  2. Hilary F Jones, R. N. (2013, May 1). Developmental changes and fructose absorption in children: effect on malabsorption testing and dietary management . Retrieved from OXFORD Academic, Nutrition reviews: https://academic.oup.com/nutritionreviews/article/71/5/300/2460214
  3. Monica Nour, S. A.-F. (2018, Nov 2). The Relationship between Vegetable Intake and Weight Outcomes: A Systematic Review of Cohort Studies. Retrieved from NCBI-PMC: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6266069/
  4. R.D., M. (2017, September). Savoring Sweet: Sugars in Infant and Toddler Feeding. Retrieved from Karger - Annals of nutrition and metabolism: https://www.karger.com/Article/Fulltext/479246
  5. Jacob P. Beckerman, Q. A. (2017, Dec 18). The Development and Public Health Implications of Food Preferences in Children. Retrieved from NCBI-PMC: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5741689/