Higher life expectancy and changing lifestyles have led to an increasing incidence of chronic illnesses such as obesity, diabetes, and cardio-vascular diseases. The key to reduce the burden of these degenerative diseases on society and improving the quality of life of the individual may be in improving the nutrition of the unborn child. Indeed, foetal growth is a complex, dynamic process depending on a continuous supply of nutrients from the mother. Epidemiological and experimental data reveal that deficient foetal nutrition, even over a brief period of time, may lead to irreversible changes in the offspring and to degenerative diseases in adulthood. This programming not only results from malnutrition due to poverty and social deprivation, but also from nutritional imbalances in affluent populations.
The aim of NUTRIX is to provide the scientific basis to the concept of foetal origin of degenerative diseases such as glucose intolerance, diabetes, obesity, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases, at the physiological, cellular and molecular level, and to identify key nutrients required for normal foetal development. This project will combine human and animal studies and focus on the insulin-producing cells, fat cells, liver cells and smooth muscle cells. Ultimately, we aim to formulate nutritional recommendations to pregnant and nursing mothers to improve long-term quality of life and to propose preventive and therapeutic nutritional supplements.
The objectives are to
- Better understand how nutrition of the pregnant and lactating mother affects early development by using three animal models of decreasing nutritional deficiency (global food restriction, protein restriction and folate restriction)
- Evaluate the relative importance of nutritional factors versus genetic factors in foetal programming by comparing genetic growth restriction models with the nutritional models
- Establish the link between experimental and human studies
- Identify key nutrients that serve as sensors of dietary deficiency and which, ultimately, may serve for preventive and therapeutic purposes.
The results of this research will be disseminated in scientific publications in peer-reviewed journals and during presentations during local, national and international meetings. We will strive, by the end of the project, to produce a booklet featuring a summary of our results. Based on the latter, it will also propose guidelines for improving and/or supplementing diets. This booklet will be delivered to health care providers (physicians, obstetricians, paediatricians), people taking care of pregnant mothers and their offspring (midwives, social workers) and to public health authorities such as national associations and institutions as well as to representatives of the European Commission.