Too Much Protein During Infancy Likely to Cause Obesity and Chronic Disease In Later Life: Leading Pediatrician Advises

To Press Releases listBangkok,Jun 11, 2015


  • Feeding only breast milk during the first six months is best for babies. It can help to reduce the risk of obesity by 15-25%.  
  • A study of approximately 1,600 infants and children in Europe showed that a group of infants who received infant formula, which contains higher protein content than breastfeeding, were prone to obesity when they grew up, compared to a group of infants fed with infant formula that had an optimized quantity of high-quality protein that is similar to breast milk.
  • Providing an optimized quantity of high-quality protein that is similar to breast milk helps to promote healthy metabolic programing, strengthen immunity, and reduce the risk of obesity and chronic diseases in the long run. Moreover, partially hydrolyzed 100% whey formulas help to reduce the risk of allergies. 
  • Cow’s milk contains higher protein than breast milk and infant formula. A mother should avoid feeding her baby unmodified cow’s milk during the first year.

Bangkok - 25 May 2015: The Nestlé Nutrition Institute by Nestlé (Thailand) Ltd., and Children’s Hospital, Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich Medical Center, Munich, Germany, shared information about the latest research on 1,600 European infants and children (infants up to about 1-year old) under the European Childhood Obesity Project. It was found that children who were breastfed were 15-25% less likely to be obese than those who consumed milk powder.

Pediatric nutrition experts view it is time to quickly foster understanding among parents that children’s eating habits should be strictly changed to help children from birth to two years old develop and receive appropriate nutrition for their age.

Prof. Dr. Berthold V. Koletzko  

Prof. Dr. Berthold V. Koletzko from the Department of Pediatrics, Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich, Germany, who is in charge of the European Childhood Obesity Project, said appropriate nutrition was important for the early stage of life, from pregnancy until the postnatal period. This early life care will lead to a healthy adult. On the other hand, if a child consumes too much protein when very young, there is a higher risk of obesity later in life.

During the past decade, obesity in children around the world has been increasing quickly. These children face the risks of diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and a generally reduced quality of life. Also, the associated medical care required is both a social burden and a strain on the health care system. Early prevention during infancy and childhood is therefore a more effective option in providing children and society with benefits in the long run.

Breastfeeding will not cause rapid weight gain for infants and reduces the risk of obesity compared to infants fed powdered milk. “The European Childhood Obesity Project” studied the relationship between weight gain of infants due to higher protein content relative to lower protein content and the weight of breastfed infants. This was to determine if there was an increased risk of obesity or chronic diseases when they were adults.

“The sample group was comprised of 1,678 infants in Europe with an average age of two weeks to one year old. They were categorized into three groups: breastfed infants, higher-protein content formula fed infants, and lower-protein content formula fed infants. It was found that height was not different between groups, but weight (weight-for-length) and Body Mass Index (BMI) were clearly higher in the high-protein group,” said Prof. Dr. Koletzko.

“With a high-protein formula that exceeds protein requirements in infancy, the metabolic system produces more insulin and more fat accumulates in the body. This leads to long-term negative health effects. It can eventually lead to obesity and cardiovascular diseases. Infants fed breast milk and infants fed reduced-protein content with protein similar to breast milk were both less likely to experience excessive weight or obesity at six years old.”

Associate Professor Dr. Sungkom Jongpiputvanich  

Associate Professor Dr. Sungkom Jongpiputvanich from the Department of Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine, Chulalongkorn University, and Chairman of the Society of Pediatric Nutrition of Thailand, said that presently childhood obesity should not be overlooked. It is a hurdle to age-appropriate development and can cause chronic diseases in the future.

The number of overweight children is increasing. Currently, the number of overweight children aged between 2-5 years increased from 5.8 percent in 1996-1997 to 7.9 percent in 2001 and 8.5 percent in 2008-2009. For school-age children, the number increased from 5.8 percent in 1996-1997 to 6.7 percent in 2001 and 9.7 percent in 2008-2009.

It was also discovered that children in Bangkok were most likely to risk obesity compared to children living in other regions, while children living in a municipality were 1.6-1.8 times more likely to be obese than children living outside of a municipality. The study also showed that 10-20 percent of overweight infants had a chance of becoming overweight children, 40 percent of overweight children had a chance of becoming overweight teenagers, and 80 percent of overweight teenagers had a chance of becoming overweight adults.

It's obvious that obesity in children is increasing quickly and the trend of younger children (before pre-school) having diseases is also rising. This group is also more prone to chronic diseases when they grow up.

The prevention of obesity can start at infancy. Breastfeeding is recommended for at least six months and should continue as long as possible. Breast milk contains all essential nutrition, especially protein, which works to maintain healthy organ function, support cells and tissues, and facilitate growth.

If a mother cannot breastfeed, the infant formula used should have an optimized protein quantity of high-quality protein that is similar to breast milk. This type of milk helps promote healthy metabolic programming, strengthen immunity, and reduces the risk of obesity and chronic disease.

In addition, partially hydrolyzed 100% whey formulas can reduce the risk of allergies. It is recommended that parents avoid feeding their children unmodified cow’s milk during the first year, as too much protein intake is more likely to increase the risk of obesity and cause an allergy to protein in cow’s milk.

Mr. Wolfgang Friess, Country Business Director, Nestlé Infant and Young Child Nutrition, as a representative of the Nestlé Nutrition Institute, said being healthy since the early stages of life will help children grow and develop appropriately.

“It is very important for the first 1,000 days after birth. Getting the right amount of high-quality protein is key to the development of the immune system and promotes healthy metabolic programming, which reduces the risk of obesity, allergies, and chronic diseases in childhood. Therefore, we provide support for nutrition research for infants and young children and disseminate the results widely to parents in order to reduce the risk of their children being prone to these diseases. This will help children grow up to be healthy citizens who are ready to drive the future of the country.”