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Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2012 May;15(3):285-92. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e328351c472.

Early nutrition impact on the insulin-like growth factor axis and later health consequences.

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Department of Human Nutrition, Faculty of Science, University of Copenhagen, Frederiksberg, Denmark.



There is increasing interest in the role of insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) in the relation between early growth and later risk of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). This review presents and discusses a selection of recent publications on this topic.


Nutrition during pregnancy and in preterm infants has an influence on IGF-I. Breastfeeding is associated with lower IGF-I values and the effect of early protein intake was confirmed in a large intervention study. IGF-I levels are associated with early obesity, but the relation is complex and differs with age. Further studies and reviews support that there is a programming of the IGF axis, with higher levels during early life being associated with lower levels in adulthood, which is likely to influence the risk of NCDs later in life.


Recent studies support that IGF-I plays an important role in the complex association between early diet, growth and later health, but more studies are needed to better understand the role of IGF-I, especially in the early development of obesity. Studies with data on how IGF-I is influenced by early diet in studies of preterm infants and young children with undernutrition from low-income countries will be helpful in recommending optimal diets.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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