A newborn child will double its weight in less than six months and the key to a successful development is a well-balanced nutrition. Recent research has shown that optimizing nutrition to infants and small children will not only impact short-term growth and morbidity, but it may also affect their long-term health. For infants less than 6 months of age, breast milk is the gold standard of nutrition. Breast milk has been associated to several advantages and it is believed that the major reason to this is the contribution from the numerous bioactive substances that it contains.
We are currently exploring two of the most interesting nutrients, lactoferrin and iron. By adding bovine lactoferrin to infant formula, using a randomized design, we are able to evaluate its bioactive effect on the growing infant. Lactoferrin has several important effects on the immune system and the main studied outcome is the effect on cytokine response and prevalence of infections. Another task is to explore the optimal intake of iron. Breast milk has an iron content of less than a tenth of what is available infant formulas, a difference that may have effects on infant health.
Altogether, over 250 newborn infants have been included in a large randomized trial, the LIME-project. They will be followed for 6 years to assess our nutritional interventions. The findings may ultimately give important future knowledge on how to optimize the short- and long-term health of our children, by using simple nutritional interventions.