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JOURNAL

Nutrition and Metabolic Insights

Early Programming by Protein Intake: The Effect of Protein on Adiposity Development and the Growth and Functionality of Vital Organs

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Nutrition and Metabolic Insights 2015:Suppl. 1 49-56

Review

Published on 20 Mar 2016

DOI: 10.4137/NMI.S29525


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Abstract

This article reviews the role of protein intake on metabolic programming early in life. The observations that breastfeeding in infancy reduces the risk of being overweight and obese later in life and the differences in the protein content between formula milk and human milk have generated the early protein hypothesis. The present review focuses on a mechanistic approach to programmed adiposity and the growth and development of other organs by protein intake in infancy, which may be mediated by branched-chain amino acids, insulin, and insulin-like growth factor 1 via the mammalian target of rapamycin. Observational studies and clinical trials have shown that lowering the protein content in infant and follow-on formulas may reduce the risk of becoming obese later in life. The recent body of evidence is currently being translated into new policies. Therefore, the evolution of European regulatory laws and recommendations by expert panels on the protein content of infant and follow-on formulas are also reviewed. Research gaps, such as the critical window for programming adiposity by protein intake, testing formulas with modified amino acids, and the long-term consequences of differences in protein intake on organ functionality among well-nourished infants, have been identified.



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