Knowledge Based Bio-Economy


Long-term effects of early nutrition on later health (Nutrition)

Project acronym: EarlyNutrition

Title of project: Long-term effects of early nutrition on later health

Research area: Nutrition

Contract No: 289346

EU contribution: € 8 962 771

Start date: February 2012

Duration: 60 months

Status: on-going

Obesity is a major health concern worldwide. Today, 65% of the world"s population live in countries where being overweight and obesity are responsible for more deaths than being underweight. The increasing population of obese individuals, particularly children, has reached epidemic proportions and threatens the sustainability of public healthcare systems. In developed nations, up to 10% of healthcare costs are spent on treating obesity-related disorders.

The EU and the WHO have initiated specific programmes to tackle this urgent health and societal problem. While obesity is preventable, the rapid increase is not sufficiently explained by changes in personal lifestyle and nutrition. Therefore the concept of the early programming of obesity risk, through nutrition before and during pregnancy and in early childhood, has received widespread attention by researchers.

Based on the evidence, particularly from the recent European Commission funded Early Nutrition Programming Project (EARNEST), which confirmed that nutritional imbalances have a long lasting programming effect on later health and risk of disease, the University of Munich and their project partners initiated the EarlyNutrition project to investigate the effect of early nutrition and lifestyle on metabolic programming.

The research programme is centered on five scientific themes:

  • The mechanisms that play a role in early nutrition programming at the molecular, cellular, organ and systemic levels.
  • The long-term outcomes of early programming as seen through observational studies on individuals followed throughout childhood, adolescence and adulthood.
  • The exploration of practical interventions into early programming through interventional studies.
  • The consolidation of scientific evidence, the dissemination of information to stakeholders, and the translation of evidence into practical approaches that address the problem of obesity as it relates to early nutrition programming.
  • The management of data and research infrastructure in order to maintain a high quality of research integrity and support the exchange of relevant and timely information.

A systematic approach is underway which builds on the expertise of researchers from 15 countries in Europe, the United States and Australia. This is necessary as research on early nutrition programming has been conducted throughout the world for years, and obesity and its related diseases have become more and more a global health concern rather than a problem in only certain countries.

With its international consortium, EarlyNutrition aims to pool global expertise, infrastructures, and data in order to make the best possible use of the current knowledge on metabolic programming.

Website of project:

Coordinator: Berthold Koletzko,

Organisation: Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Germany,