A Bad Diet as an Adult May be the Result of Poor Feeding Habits in Infancy

Written by Dr. Steve Chaney on . Posted in Bad Diets Can Start in Infancy, Diets

“As The Twig Bends…”

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

infant bad dietYou have probably heard the saying “As the twig bends, so grows the tree.”  The origin of that quote is lost in lore of medieval England, but the saying absolutely rings true when we are talking about infant nutrition and a bad diet as an adult.

Most moms naturally assume that a healthy diet is important for their infants, but many new moms have questions:

  • What does a healthy diet for their infant look like?
  • What should they do if their infant is a fussy eater?
  • Could what they feed their infants influence their eating patterns and their health for years to come?

Of course, there is no shortage of advice. There are the family customs handed down from generation to generation. There is lots of advice on the internet, some of it offered by people who have no knowledge of nutrition. Your pediatrician’s advice may be based on what they learned in medical school, but it is just as likely to have come from their mother.

All of that advice is well meaning, but some of it is flat out wrong!

Fortunately, the Centers for Disease Control and the US Food and Drug Administration have sponsored a major study called the longitudinal Infant Feeding Practices Study II (IFPD II) to answer these and other important questions about infant feeding practices.

How The Study Was Set Up

The initial phase of the study was performed between May 2005 and June 2007, and the study design was reported in 2008 (Fein et al., Pediatrics, 122: S28-S35, 2008). During this phase of the study, investigators simply collected information on infant feeding practices from ~2000 mothers when their infants were between 1 month and 1 year of age.

The purpose of this phase of the investigation was simply to collect baseline data so that subsequent studies could correlate infant feeding practices with diet and health outcomes as these children got older.

This was a very comprehensive survey of infant feeding practices and health status:

  • The first neonatal feeding practices survey was sent when the infant was ~ 1 month old.
  • Between ages 2 to 7 months, nine more surveys were sent out on an approximately monthly basis.  These surveys asked about infant feeding, health, care, and related issues.
  • After 7 months additional surveys were sent out every 7 weeks until the infant was 12 months old.
  • In addition, the study included two maternal dietary surveys, one during pregnancy and a second one 4 months after delivery.

A Bad Diet Can Begin in Infancy

In phase 2 of the study multiple investigators followed up with ~1,500 of these children at age 6 to find out how infant feeding practices correlated with their diet and health as they reached early childhood. These studies were all published in a special edition of the journal Pediatrics in 2014 (Pediatrics, 134: Supplement 1, September 2014).  Key findings from these studies were:

breastfeedingDuration of Breastfeeding Is Positively Correlated With A Healthier Diet At Age 6(C.G. Perrine et al, Pediatrics, 134: S50-S55, 2014). Specifically:

  • Infants who were breastfed for 12 months or longer were significantly more likely to drink water and to eat fresh fruits and vegetables at age 6 than infants who were breastfed for 6 months or less.
  • Infants who were breastfed for 12 months or longer were also significantly less likely to consume juices and sugar-sweetened beverages at age 6.
  • However, no correlation was seen between the duration of breastfeeding and consumption of milk, sweets and salty snacks in this study.

The authors of this study made the interesting comment that the taste of breast milk varies somewhat depending on what the mother has eaten that day. In contrast, commercial infant formulas taste the same every time and are often somewhat sweeter than breast milk. They hypothesized that this normal variation in the taste of breast milk may make toddlers and young children more willing to accept new foods such as fruits and vegetables.  Here, you can already start to see breastfeeding longer may help avoid a bad diet later.

Of course, the authors cannot eliminate the possibility that mothers who breastfeed longer are also choosier about what they feed their children.

Fruit and Vegetable Intake In Infancy Is Positively Correlated With Fruit and Vegetable Intake At Age 6(K.A. Grimm et al, Pediatrics, 134: S63-S69, 2014).  Specifically:

  • 33% of 6-year-olds in their survey consumed fruit less than once daily and 20% consumed vegetables less than once daily.
  • More importantly, children in their study who consumed fruits and vegetables less than once daily during late infancy (10-12 months) were ~2.5 times less likely to eat fruits and vegetables more than once daily at age 6.

The authors of the study made the interesting observation that a liking of things that are sweet or salty is hardwired into the human brain.  A single exposure to sweet and salty foods during infancy may be all that it takes to create a lifelong craving for those kinds of foods and leading to a  bad diet.

In contrast, it may take repeated exposure to fruits and vegetables during infancy to develop a familiarity and preference for those kinds of foods. One of the authors of this study reported in a previous study that infants who were offered green beans for the first time squinted and wrinkled their noses. However, many of those same infants opened their mouths to try a spoonful if parents persisted.

Once again, there are other factors to consider, such as the kind of diet parents are modeling for their children.

Consumption of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages During Infancy Doubles The Odds Of Consuming Them At Age 6(S. Park et al, Pediatrics, 134: S56-S62, 2014).  This study speaks for itself, but it is troubling.  I shudder every time I see a young mother wheeling her baby through a store with a soft drink in their baby bottle.  Is this a bad diet for an infant?

The implication of these studies and several other studies published in that issue of Pediatrics is clear.  Bad diets do begin in infancy.  However, there is a positive side to these studies.  Good diets also begin in infancy, and you are in charge of what your infant puts in their mouth.

Bad Health Begins In Infancy

These studies are critically important because bad diets are not just a victimless crime.  Bad diets affect health.  Eventually, they kill people.  Here are two examples from this set of studies that show how an infant’s diet affects their health – one positively and one negatively.

Duration of Breastfeeding Is Positively Correlated With A Healthier Immune System At Age 6(R. Li et al, Pediatrics, 134: S13-S20, 2014). This study showed that longer breastfeeding and later introduction of foods was associated with lower rates of ear, throat, and sinus infections.  This conclusion is not exactly new.  It strongly supports what a number of previous studies have shown.

bad diet childConsumption of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages During Infancy Doubles The Odds Of Obesity At Age 6(L. Pan et al, Pediatrics, 134: S29-S35, 2014).  This finding is not surprising.  The study mentioned above showed that consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages during infancy doubles the odds of consuming them at 6.  Moreover, previous studies have clearly shown that consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with obesity in children.

However, this finding is troubling because obese children often become obese adults, and obesity is associated with many serious health issues.

Again, the implication of these studies is clear.  Both bad health and good health can be strongly influenced by feeding habits established in infancy.

 

The Bottom Line

 

  • A major clinical study supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Food and Drug Administration monitored infant feeding patterns during the first year and compared those patterns with diet habits and health outcomes at age 6.
  • The duration of breastfeeding was positively associated with a healthier diet and a stronger immune system at age 6. Specifically:
  • Infants who were breastfed for 12 months or longer were significantly more likely to drink water and to eat fresh fruits and vegetables at age 6 than infants who were breastfed for 6 months or less.
  • Infants who were breastfed for 12 months or longer were also significantly less likely to consume juices and sugar-sweetened beverages at age 6.
  • Infants who were breastfed for 12 months or longer were significantly less likely to suffer from of ear, throat, and sinus infections.
  • The pattern of fruit and vegetable consumption established in late infancy was maintained through at least age 6. Specifically:
  • Children who consumed fruits and vegetables less than once daily during late infancy (10-12 months) were ~2.5 times less likely to eat fruits and vegetables more than once daily at age 6.
  • Consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages during infancy has a negative impact on both diet and health through at least age 6. Specifically:
  • Consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks during infancy doubles the chances that children will still be consuming sugar-sweetened beverages and will be obese at age 6.
  • This study strongly confirms what many smaller studies have suggested for years. It reinforces the importance of breastfeeding for at least the first 12 months and slowly transitioning to healthy foods rather than sugar-sweetened beverages and junk foods. It shows that what we feed our infants may influence their diet and their health for a lifetime.

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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Should We Use Supplements For Cardiovascular Health?

Posted July 10, 2018 by Dr. Steve Chaney

Are You Just Wasting Your Money On Supplements?

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

 

supplements for cardiovascular health wast moneyYou’ve seen the headlines. “Recent Study Finds Vitamin and Mineral Supplements Don’t Lower Heart Disease Risk.”  You are being told that supplements are of no benefit to you. They are a waste of money. You should follow a healthy diet instead. Is all of this true?

If I were like most bloggers, I would give you a simple yes or no answer that would be only partially correct. Instead, I am going to put the study behind these headlines into perspective. I am going to give you a deeper understanding of supplementation, so you can make better choices for your health.

 Should we use supplements for cardiovascular health?

In today’s article I will give you a brief overview of the subject. Here are the topics I will cover today:

  • Is this fake news?
  • Did the study ask the right questions?
  • Is this a question of “Garbage In – Garbage Out?
  • Reducing Heart Disease Risk. What you need to know.

All these topics are covered in much more detail (with references) in my book “Slaying The Supplement Myths”, which will be published this fall.

 

How Was This Study Done?

supplements for cardiovascular healthThis study (D.J.A. Jenkins et al, Journal of the American College Of Cardiology, 71: 2540-2584, 2018 ) was a meta-analysis. Simply put, that means the authors combined the results of many previous studies into a single database to increase the statistical power of their conclusions. This study included 127 randomized control trials published between 2012 and December 2017. These were all studies that included supplementation and looked at cardiovascular end points, cancer end points or overall mortality.

Before looking at the results, it is instructive to look at the strengths and weaknesses of the study. Rather than giving you my interpretation, let me summarize what the authors said about strengths and weaknesses of their own study.

The strengths are obvious. Randomized control trials are considered the gold standard of evidence-based medicine, but they have their weaknesses. Here is what the authors said about the limitations of their study:

  • “Randomized control trials are of shorter duration, whereas longer duration studies might be required to fully capture chronic disease risk.”
  • “Dose-response data were not usually available [from the randomized control studies included in their analysis]. However, larger studies would allow the effect of dose to be assessed.”

There are some other limitations of this study, which I will point out below.

Is This Fake News?

supplements for cardiovascular health fake newsWhen I talk about “fake news” I am referring to the headlines, not to the study behind the headlines. The headlines were definitive: “Vitamin and Mineral Supplements Don’t Lower Heart Disease Risk.” However, when you read the study the reality is quite different:

  • In contrast to the negative headlines, the study reported:
    • Folic acid supplementation decreased stroke risk by 20% and overall heart disease risk by 17%.
    • B complex supplements containing folic acid, B6, and B12 decreased stroke risk by 10%.
    • That’s a big deal, but somehow the headlines forgot to mention it.
  • The supplements that had no significant effect on heart disease risk (multivitamins, vitamin D, calcium, and vitamin C) were ones that would not be expected to lower heart disease risk. There was little evidence from previous studies of decreased risk. Furthermore, there is no plausible mechanism for supposing they might decrease heart disease risk.
  • The study did not include vitamin E or omega-3 supplements, which are the ones most likely to prove effective in decreasing heart disease risk when the studies are done properly (see below).

Did The Study Ask The Right Question?

Most of the studies included in this meta-analysis were asking whether a supplement decreased heart disease risk or mortality for everyone. Simply put, the studies started with a group of generally healthy Americans and asked whether supplementation had a significant effect on disease risk for everyone in that population.

That is the wrong question. We should not expect supplementation to benefit everyone equally. Instead, we should be asking who is most likely to benefit from supplementation and design our clinical studies to test whether those people benefit from supplementation.

supplements for cardiovascular health diagramI have created the graphic on the right as a guide to help answer the question of “Who is most likely to benefit from supplementation?”. Let me summarize each of the points using folic acid as the example.

 

Poor Diet: It only makes sense that those people who are deficient in folate from foods are the most likely to benefit from folic acid supplementation. Think about it for a minute. Would you really expect people who are already getting plenty of folate from their diet to obtain additional benefits from folic acid supplementation?

The NIH estimates that around 20% of US women of childbearing age are deficient in folic acid. For other segments of our population, dietary folate insufficiency ranges from 5-10%. Yet, most studies of folic acid supplementation lump everyone together – even though 80-95% of the US population is already getting enough folate through foods, food fortification, and supplementation. It is no wonder most studies fail to find a beneficial effect of folic acid supplementation.

The authors of the meta-analysis I discussed above said that the beneficial effects of folic acid they saw might have been influenced by a very large Chinese study, because a much higher percentage of Chinese are deficient in folic acid. They went on to say that the Chinese study needed to be repeated in this country.

In fact, the US study has already been done. A large study called “The Heart Outcomes Prevention Evaluation (HOPE)” study reported that folic acid supplementation did not reduce heart disease risk in the whole population. However, when the study focused on the subgroup of subjects who were folate-deficient at the beginning of the study, folic acid supplementation significantly decreased their risk of heart attack and cardiovascular death.  This would seem to suggest using supplements for cardiovascular health is a good idea.

Increased Need: There are many factors that increase the need for certain nutrients. However, for the sake of simplicity, let’s only focus on medications. Medications that interfere with folic acid metabolism include anticonvulsants, metformin (used to treat diabetes), methotrexate and sulfasalazine (used to treat severe inflammation), birth control pills, and some diuretics. Use of these medications is not a concern when the diet is adequate. However, when you combine medication use with a folate-deficient diet, health risks are increased and supplementation with folic acid is more likely to be beneficial.

Genetic Predisposition: The best known genetic defect affecting folic acid metabolism is MTHFR. MTHFR deficiency does not mean you have a specific need for methylfolate. However, it does increase your need for folic acid. Again, this is not a concern when the diet is adequate. However, when you combine MTHFR deficiency with a folate-deficient diet, health risks are increased and supplementation with folic acid is more likely to be beneficial. I cover this topic in great detail in my upcoming book, “Slaying The Supplement Myths”. In the meantime, you might wish to view my video, “The Truth About Methyl Folate.”

Diseases: An underlying disease or predisposition to disease often increases the need for one or more nutrients that help reduce disease risk. The best examples of this are two major studies on the effect of vitamin E on heart disease risk in women. Both studies found no effect of vitamin E on heart disease risk in the whole population. However, one study reported that vitamin E reduced heart disease risk in the subgroup of women who were post-menopausal (when the risk of heart disease skyrockets). The other study found that vitamin E reduced heart attack risk in the subgroup of women who had pre-existing heart disease at the beginning of the study.

Finally, if you look at the diagram closely, you will notice a red circle in the middle. When two or three of these factors overlap, that is the “sweet spot” where supplementation is almost certain to make a difference and it may be a good idea to use supplements for cardiovascular health.

Is This A Question Of “Garbage In, Garbage Out”?

supplements for cardiovascular health garbage in outUnfortunately, most clinical studies focus on the “Does everyone benefit from supplementation question?” rather than the “Who benefits from supplementation?” question.

In addition, most clinical studies of supplementation are based on the drug model. They are studying supplementation with a single vitamin or mineral, as if it were a drug. That’s unfortunate, because vitamins and minerals work together synergistically. What we need are more studies of holistic supplementation approaches.

Until these two things change, most supplement studies are doomed to failure. They are doomed to give negative results. In addition, meta-analyses based on these faulty supplement studies will fall victim to what computer programmers refer to as “Garbage In, Garbage Out”. If the data going into the analysis is faulty, the data coming out of the study will be equally faulty. It won’t be worth the paper it is written on. If you are looking for personal guidance on supplementation, this study falls into that category.

 

Should We Use Supplements For Cardiovascular Health?

 

If you want to know whether supplements decrease heart disease risk for everyone, this meta-analysis is clear. Folic acid may decrease the risk of stroke and heart disease. A B complex supplement may decrease the risk of stroke. All the other supplements they included in their analysis did not decrease heart disease risk, but the analysis did not include vitamin E and/or omega-3s.

However, if you want to know whether supplements decrease heart disease risk for you, this study provides no guidance. It did not ask the right questions.

I would be remiss, however, if I failed to point out that we know healthy diets can decrease heart disease risk. In the words of the authors: “The recent science-based report of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, also concerned with [heart disease] risk reduction, recommended 3 dietary patterns: 1) a healthy American diet low in saturated fat, trans fat, and meat, but high in fruits and vegetables; 2) a Mediterranean diet; and 3) a vegetarian diet. These diets, with their accompanying recommendations, continue the move towards more plant-based diets…” I cover the effect of diet on heart disease risk in detail in my book, “Slaying The Food Myths”.

 

The Bottom Line

 

You have probably seen the recent headlines proclaiming: “Vitamin and Mineral Supplements Don’t Lower Heart Disease Risk.” The study behind the headlines was a meta-analysis of 127 randomized control trials looking at the effect of supplementation on heart disease risk and mortality.

  • The headlines qualify as “fake news” because:
    • The study found that folic acid decreased stroke and heart disease risk, and B vitamins decreased stroke risk. Somehow the headlines forgot to mention that.
    • The study found that multivitamins, vitamin D, calcium, and vitamin C had no effect on heart disease risk. These are nutrients that were unlikely to decrease heart disease risk to begin with.
    • The study did not include vitamin E and omega-3s. These are nutrients that are likely to decrease heart disease risk when the studies are done properly.
  • The authors of the study stated that a major weakness of their study was that that randomized control studies included in their analysis were short term, whereas longer duration studies might be required to fully capture chronic disease risk.
  • The study behind the headlines is of little use for you as an individual because it asked the wrong question.
  • Most clinical studies focus on the “Does everyone benefit from supplementation question?” That is the wrong question. Instead we need more clinical studies focused on the “Who benefits from supplementation?” question. I discuss that question in more detail in the article above.
  • In addition, most clinical studies of supplementation are based on the drug model. They are studying supplementation with a single vitamin or mineral, as if it were a drug. That’s unfortunate, because vitamins and minerals work together synergistically. What we need are more studies of holistic supplementation approaches.
  • Until these two things change, most supplement studies are doomed to failure. They are doomed to give negative results. In addition, meta-analyses based on these faulty supplement studies will fall victim to what computer programmers refer to as “Garbage In, Garbage Out”. If the data going into the analysis is faulty, the data coming out of the study will be equally faulty. It won’t be worth the paper it is written on. If you are looking for personal guidance on supplementation, this study falls into that category.
  • If you want to know whether supplements decrease heart disease risk for everyone, this study is clear. Folic acid may decrease the risk of stroke and heart disease. A B-complex supplement may decrease the risk of stroke. All the other supplements they included in their analysis did not decrease heart disease risk, but they did not include vitamin E and/or omega-3s in their analysis.
  • If you want to know whether supplements decrease heart disease risk for you, this study provides no guidance. It did not ask the right questions.
  • However, we do know that healthy, plant-based diets can decrease heart disease risk. I cover heart healthy diets in detail in my book, “Slaying The Food Myths.”

 

For more details, read the article above.

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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