Background & aims: Protein intake in infancy promotes growth, but excessive intake may lead to adiposity in children. However, whether this increased adiposity persists throughout childhood and is independent of diet in later life remains unclear. Therefore, we studied the associations of total protein intake and protein from different sources at age 1 year with repeatedly measured growth and body composition up to age 10 years. Additionally, we examined whether these associations are independent of protein intake and overall diet quality at age 8 years. Methods: We included 3573 children from the Generation R study, a population-based prospective cohort in the Netherlands. Dietary intakes were assessed with food-frequency questionnaires at ages 1 and 8 years and macronutrient intakes were expressed as energy percentages (E%). Height and weight were measured at eight time points between ages 1 and 10 years. Fat and fat-free masses were measured at ages 6 and 10 years with dual-energy X-ray-absorptiometry. We calculated body mass index (BMI), fat mass index (FMI) and fat-free mass index (FFMI). Outcomes were standardized for sex and age and expressed as standard deviation scores (SDS). Associations of protein intake with growth and body composition trajectories were examined with multivariable linear mixed models. Results: After adjustment for confounders, 5E% additional protein intake at age 1 year was associated with a 0.10 SDS higher weight (95% CI 0.04, 0.16), 0.10 SDS higher BMI (95% CI 0.04, 0.16), and 0.07 SDS higher FMI (95% CI 0.01, 0.13) up to age 10 years. These associations were explained by protein from animal sources and not plant sources. Associations were independent of protein intake and overall diet quality at age 8 years, and were independent of whether higher protein was consumed at the expense of carbohydrates or fat in the diet. Conclusions: Our study suggests that high protein intake in infancy, particularly from animal food sources, is persistently associated with adiposity up to age 10 years. Restricting protein intake in this critical period of development may aid in the early prevention of adiposity in childhood.

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Clinical Nutrition
Department of Epidemiology

Jen, V., Braun, K., Karagounis, L., Nguyen, A. N., Jaddoe, V., Schoufour, J., … Voortman, T. (2018). Longitudinal association of dietary protein intake in infancy and adiposity throughout childhood. Clinical Nutrition. doi:10.1016/j.clnu.2018.05.013