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Am J Clin Nutr. 2019 Apr 1;109(4):1154-1163. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqy354.

Associations of protein intake in early childhood with body composition, height, and insulin-like growth factor I in mid-childhood and early adolescence.

Author information

1
Division of Chronic Disease Research Across the Lifecourse, Department of Population Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, Boston, MA.
2
Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.
3
Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging.
4
Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, School of Medicine, Tufts University, Boston, MA.
5
Pediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes, Maine Medical Center, Portland, ME.
6
Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation, Maine Medical Center Research Institute, Portland, ME.
7
Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Early protein intake may program later body composition and height growth, perhaps mediated by insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I). In infancy, higher protein intake is consistently associated with higher IGF-I concentrations and more rapid growth, but associations of protein intake after infancy with later growth and IGF-I are less clear.

OBJECTIVES:

Our objective was to examine associations of protein intake in early childhood (median 3.2 y) with height, IGF-I, and measures of adiposity and lean mass in mid-childhood (median 7.7 y) and early adolescence (median 13.0 y), and with changes in these outcomes over time. We hypothesized that early childhood protein intake programs later growth.

METHODS:

We studied 1165 children in the Boston-area Project Viva cohort. Mothers reported children's diet using food-frequency questionnaires. We stratified by child sex and examined associations of early childhood protein intake with mid-childhood and early adolescent BMI z score, skinfold thicknesses, dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) fat mass, DXA lean mass, height z score, and IGF-I concentration. We adjusted linear regression models for race/ethnicity, family sociodemographics, parental and birth anthropometrics, breastfeeding status, physical activity, and fast food intake.

RESULTS:

Mean protein intake in early childhood was 58.3 g/d. There were no associations of protein intake in early childhood with any of the mid-childhood outcomes. Among boys, however, each 10-g increase in early childhood total protein intake was associated with several markers of early adolescent size, namely BMI z score (0.12 higher; 95% CI: 0.01, 0.23), DXA lean mass index (1.34% higher; 95% CI: -0.07%, 2.78%), and circulating IGF-I (5.67% higher; 95% CI: 0.30%, 11.3%). There were no associations with fat mass and no associations with any adolescent outcomes among girls.

CONCLUSIONS:

Early childhood protein intake may contribute to programming lean mass and IGF-I around the time of puberty in boys, but not to adiposity development. This study was registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT02820402.

KEYWORDS:

IGF-I; Project Viva; body composition; cohort; early childhood protein intake; height growth

PMID:
30869114
PMCID:
PMC6462426
[Available on 2020-04-01]
DOI:
10.1093/ajcn/nqy354

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