Unhealthy Lifestyles will perpetuate childhood obesity - Expert
Accra, Feb.14, GNA - Two hundred million children of school going-age have weight-related problems, while one in two infants are destined to become obese if the current unhealthy lifestyles should continue.
Professor James K. Renner, a Board Member of NestlÃ© Nutrition Institute of Africa (NNIA), who said this, noted that situation was getting worse as 'the fat appearance in children with obesity was just least of the problem.'
Addressing the topic, 'Shaping the Future: Protein In Paediatrics', at NNIA's Paediatric Nutrition Symposium for healthcare professionals in Accra, Prof, Renner said early nutrition impacted a child's risk of becoming overweight or obese and developing related health problems later in life.
He stated: 'The first 1000 days of a child's life, which covers pre-pregnancy and the first two years of a child's life, is a crucial period for healthy growth and development in terms of immunity and brain development. The right feeding practices in early childhood support the establishment of healthy eating habits'.
The symposium was to address the importance and relevance of protein in child health and nutrition.
NNIA is a multidisciplinary, educational organisation, dedicated to the science of nutrition in Africa.
It provides healthcare professionals with information on the latest science and developments in early childhood nutrition through publications, workshops, scientific conferences and digital media.
Health care providers, who attended the symposium, were presented with the new science that showed that breast milk protein was the most important nutrient for infants.
It revealed that its low fat quantity and unique composition influenced all aspects of growth and development and had a long term impact on health.
Studies have shown that inadequate levels, and inappropriate quality, of protein in infancy could lead to long-term health issues, including obesity, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes.
Prof. Renner emphasised that breast milk was the best nutritional start a baby could have and the first 1000 days provided the greatest opportunity for securing a healthy and productive future through the right nutrition and feeding practices.
Ensuring adequate protein intake was one of the beneficial nutrition interventions impacting long term health, he said.
Prof. Renner advised that breast feeding was protective and should be promoted and protected, saying, 'The protein content of Infant formula should be modified in quantity and quality in the light of current irrefutable evidence in support of the early protein hypothesis as it relates to overweight and obesity in childhood.
'The same concern for protein content of formula also applies to follow-up feeds and other complementary'.
Mrs Matilda Steiner-Asiedu of the Nutrition and Food Science Department of the University of Ghana, who treated the topic, 'Importance of Early Nutrition and Long-Term Health', explained that health in the earliest years began with the future mother's health before pregnancy and described that period as 'the foundation for a lifetime of well-being'.
She said health outcomes were profoundly influenced by a range of factors beyond biological endowment, home and medical care, to also all the interplays in the environment.
'As health professionals, it is important to integrate socio- economic and socio-cultural contextual factors at all times to ensuring adequate food and nutrition in health promotion for long term health, she said'.
She called for renewed attention to maternal nutrition, saying, 'Therefore, every system that touches the lives of mothers and children should offer an opportunity to strengthen the foundations and capacities that make lifelong healthy development possible.
The Director of Policy Planning Monitoring and Evaluation Directorate of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Afisah Zakaria, commended Nestle for the rich information disseminated to health care providers.
She called for continual education of health workers on science-based nutrition because science was dynamic and expressed the Ministry's interest in partnering NNIA towards addressing concerns on non-communicable diseases.
She said the Ministry would ensure that the current three months maternal leave was increased to six months to enable mothers to practice religiously the six months exclusive breast feeding, which had been demonstrated to be essential for the survival of every baby.