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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: DIETARY INFLUENCES ON PSYCHOLOGICAL AND PHYSIOLOGICAL FUNCTION IN CHILDREN
2010 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416)
Determine the influence of dietary factors on growth, physiological, psychological and cognitive development and functioning in children (from infancy through childhood). The overall goals of this study are to:.
1)evaluate the effects of infant diet (breast-milk, dairy- and soy-based formulas, and monosaccharide supplemented formula) on physiological, behavioral, and cognitive development in infants and children;.
2)determine the effects of diet composition, meal patterns, and meal frequency on brain function and behavioral dynamics that are important for learning and school performance in well-characterized normal and overweight school children; and.
3)characterize neurocognitive function that contributes to or is a consequence of obesity in children, including brain-function correlates of food-seeking behavior.


1b.Approach (from AD-416)
Children (infants, toddlers, and school-aged youths) will be studied longitudinally to evaluate the effects of infant diet (specifically, breast-milk, dairy- and soy-based formulas, and monosaccharide supplemented formula) on physiological, behavioral and cognitive development in infants and children. Nutritional status assessments, anthropometric measurements, urine and blood analysis, and measures of psychological, neuropsychological, and cognitive measures will be obtained and analyzed. The effects of diet composition, meal patterns, and meal frequency on brain function and behavioral dynamics that are important for learning and school performance in normal and overweight school children will be assessed using validated survey instruments and state-of-the-art research equipment. Neurocognitive function will be characterized that contributes to or is a consequence of obesity in children, including brain-function correlates of food-seeking behavior.


3.Progress Report
Socio-economic status is a major source of health inequalities. Lower socio-economic status has been associated with increased prevalence of overweight and obesity, and related diseases. To devise interventions aimed at reducing health inequalities, it is necessary to understand the mechanisms underlying differences in health behaviors. The aim of this study was to identify individual, social, and environmental contributors (mechanisms) to individual and area differences in leisure-time physical activity across socio-demographic groups. Participants completed two surveys six months apart including questions on leisure-time physical activity participation and its potential individual, social, and environmental determinants. This study suggests that in order to increase physical activity participation in the more disadvantaged segments of the population, comprehensive interventions targeting activity-related attitudes and skills as well as social and physical environments are needed.


4.Accomplishments
1. Does diet influence early childhood development in healthy infants? There are no long-term well-controlled studies comparing the effects of various infant diets on behavioral, cognitive, and psychophysiological development. Furthermore, there is a continuing international controversy over the safety and efficacy of soy formula. To address the effects of early diet on brain development, scientists at Arkansas Children's Nutrition Center in Little Rock, Arkansas, are conducting a prospective, longitudinal investigation (the Beginnings Study) of healthy infants fed the three major infant diets used in the United States. Researchers have completed their eighth study year, approximately 84% of the 200/group target have been enrolled in the study and 4,317 assessment visits have been conducted [466 (approximately 11%) during this report period]. Questions regarding how and the extent to which early nutritional status and diet influence growth, brain and cognitive development are beginning to be answered. Findings from this study will provide parents, physicians and industry comparative information regarding infant diet efficacy, and will provide insights into potential adverse effects of soy formula.

2. Diet alters the initial encoding and discrimination of language sounds in 3- to 6-month olds. Infant diets influence development later in life, but the extent to which such influences are evident and how they may be influenced by specific diets have not been documented in healthy infants. Scientists at the Arkansas Children's Nutrition Center (ACNC) in Little Rock, Arkansas, have compared brain responses to speech sounds in infants who were breast fed or formula fed (milk-based or soy formula) when they were 3 and 6 months old. They found that speech sounds were processed faster in breast-fed than formula-fed infants, but discrimination of different speech sounds was greatest in soy-fed infants. These findings are of general developmental significance, showing the extent to which language sounds are evaluated in early stages of sensory processing in infants, and that these processes are impacted by infant diet. These findings provide comparative information regarding infant diet to parents and physicians and should help reduce the concerns of parents and industry regarding the use of soy formula.

3. Brain responses differ between males and females and between breast-fed and formula-fed infants. At birth infants show preferential processing of speech sounds, but how language development is influenced by early infant nutrition is not known. Arkansas Children's Nutrition Center scientists in Little Rock, Arkansas, have shown that 3- and 6-month-old infants indicate greater syllable discrimination in breast-fed than formula-fed infants, and better developed discrimination in females at 6 months (regardless of diet). These results provide new information regarding diet and gender influences on the development of language processes during infancy, as well as comparative information regarding infant diet to parents and physicians.


Review Publications
Jing, H., Gilchrist, J.M., Badger, T.M., Pivik, R.T. 2010. A longitudinal study of differences in electroencephalographic activity among breastfed, milk formula-fed, and soy formula-fed infants during the first year of life. Early Human Development. 86(1):119-125.

Last Modified: 11/22/2014
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