Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Related Topics

Research Project: Role of Dietary Factors on Growth, Development, and Health

Location: Arkansas Children's Nutrition Center

Project Number: 6026-51000-010-05-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Aug 1, 2013
End Date: Jul 31, 2018

Determine the influence of dietary factors on growth, physiological,psychological and cognitive development and function in children. Our goals are to: 1)evaluate the effects of infant diet on physiological, behavioral, and cognitive development in children; 2)determine the effects of diet composition, meal patterns, and meal frequency on brain that are important for learning; and 3)characterize neurocognitive function that influences obesity in children. Dietary factors may significantly impact long-term human health during adult life as a result of the influences on early developmental events. Certain common dietary factors appear to be capable of affecting growth and development; transiently and permanently altering metabolism; influencing body composition; and preventing some diseases. For example, fruits, vegetables, grains, and milk contain natural compounds (phytochemicals, peptides, and proteins) that can alter development, physiology, and metabolism, which can ultimately lead to disease prevention and phenotypic changes. Isoflavones are an example of bioactive phytochemicals that are particularly concentrated in soybeans and can have many of the same actions as the major female hormones, the estrogens. Countries with regular consumption of large amounts of soy foods report lower incidence of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and obesity; and factors in soy (isoflavones and peptides) are postulated as being partially responsible. The objectives of this research include: 1) determine the effects of diet and physical activity in humans and animal models on development and organ function; 2) determine how early exposure to proteins (i.e., soy proteins), vegetables, and fruits confers resistance to chronic diseases such as mammary cancer, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes in later adult life; 3) evaluate multiple molecular mechanisms and identify bioactive components for chronic disease prevention by diets using appropriate models as measured by tumor suppressors and oncogenes; oxidative modification; inflammation; immunomodulation; and insulin sensitivity; 4) examine consequences of maternal body composition, early diet, and dietary intake of combinations of foods (soy, fruits) on child body composition, chronic disease prevention, organ development and signaling pathways, relative to dietary intake of a single food; 5) investigate the mechanisms of maternal obesity-induced fetal programming; 6) examine the impact of type and amount of dietary macronutrient components on development of obesity and associated metabolic consequences in an animal model of pediatric total enteral nutrition and in clinical studies; 7) identify the potential of dietary factors for mitigating risk of obesity via nutritional programming; 8) determine the relationships between diet, body composition, GI microbiota/microbiome, metabolomics, and long-term health consequences in children; and 9) determine the effects of genetic and epigenetic interactions with diet, nutritional status, weight gain, and behavior during gestation on placental and offspring development, health and susceptibility to chronic diseases, including obesity.

Studies will focus on the various dietary factors found in foods commonly consumed by children, such as infant formula, fruits, rice, milk, and soy to determine the long-term health and developmental effects in infants and children. We will analyze how the early exposure to protein sources, vegetables, and fruits normally consumed by infants and children prevents the initiation of and protects against chronic diseases by altering tissue differentiation, inflammation, and/or oxidative status. We will use animal models to mechanistically address the molecular and cellular pathways regulated by intake of various dietary factors (such as those in soy foods, berries, grains and milk) in mammary tissue, aorta, liver, adipose tissue, pancreas, and skeletal muscle; identify tissue and serum biomarkers of healthy status associated with these diets; and provide new molecular targets and processes underlying chronic diseases that may be influenced by proper nutrition. Additional work will be undertaken in an observational study of infants from birth to age 6 years, the Beginnings Study, in which breast-fed, milk formula-fed, and soy formula-fed children are studied for growth, development, body composition, and metabolism. In addition, bone development and immune system development and function will be studied in children, and animal (pigs and rodents) models will be utilized to explore molecular mechanisms underlying the effects of early dietary exposures. The rat model will be used to understand the parental genetic transmission of the susceptibility to high fat feeding to future generations and underlying molecular, biochemical, and endocrine mechanisms, in the offspring. Work will be accomplished by evaluating critical periods of development and vulnerable stages of life (i.e. body composition and nutritional status of women at the moment of conception; nutritional and developmental issues during pregnancy and lactation) and the development of eating behaviors during childhood, adolescence, and later stages of life.

Last Modified: 05/26/2017
Footer Content Back to Top of Page