International Conference on Nutrition & Growth 2017 March 2017: Kids’ Health

And what if yogurt was the best snack for children?

yogurt-child-adolescent-obesity-diabetes

With almost 1,200 health professionals from 85 countries, Nutrition & Growth is one of the most important events in the pediatric nutrition sector. The latest edition, which took place in Amsterdam, was an opportunity for YINI to talk about the current issues in children’s diets, and to show how regular yogurt consumption can improve children’s health.


The symposium, developed by the Yogurt in Nutrition Initiative for a Balanced Diet, ended with a very positive conclusion. The event, chaired by Sharon Donovan (University of Illinois, U.S.A.) and Olivier Goulet (Hôpital Necker-Enfants Malades, France), brought together many participants and led to numerous debates around presentations by Professor Luis Moreno (University of Zaragoza, Spain), Professor André Marette (Université Laval, Canada), Dr. Vicky Drapeau (Université Laval, Canada) and Dr. Julie Mennella (Monell Chemical Senses Center, U.S.A.). What were the main take-home messages?

What has been observed for adults is proven for children too

An accumulation of scientific evidence in recent years has proven that the consumption of yogurt is probably the signature of a healthy lifestyle and diet for adults. As yet, such a statement cannot be made for children, but some studies are pointing in this direction, in the words of Professor Luis Moreno. The results from American and British cohorts of children aged 2 to 18 underline the fact that yogurt consumption is associated with higher nutritional intakes (calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B2, iodine, phosphorus, proteins) and better compliance with nutritional recommendations, especially concerning fruit, wholegrain cereals and milk. Recent studies (HELENA and IDEFICS) carried out in several European countries also associate yogurt consumption with higher levels of physical activity and less frequent sedentary activities (notably, looking at a screen). These effects have not been observed for other dairy products, and thus tend to confirm observations already made among adults. Read here the full report on his talk.

Yogurt, obesity and perhaps diabetes

Excess weight and obesity are affecting more and more people, both adults and children. Among the latter, obesity has practically doubled in fifteen years. Can we assert that dairy products are partly responsible for this? In fact, studies on the subject instead highlight the protection dairy products provide, Prof. André Marette noted. Dairy products have a significant association with a reduced risk of excess weight and obesity for both children and adolescents. More specifically, yogurt consumption among children is associated with lower BMIs, smaller waist sizes and less body fat. Yet, while the positive impact of yogurt on the prevention of Type 2 diabetes is well documented for adults and older people, there is currently a lack of data concerning children. Nevertheless, certain indicators support the theory: regular yogurt consumption is associated with a more favorable level of plasma insulin and a better sensitivity to insulin, so a reduced risk of insulin resistance. According to Prof. Marette, this makes yogurt one of the best snack options for the very young. Check out his presentation!

Yogurt as part of intervention strategies for child obesity?

Besides primary prevention, yogurt could also help with the secondary prevention of obesity. That is what Dr. Vicky Drapeau is currently studying, as part of her YINI research grant. Her work should allow us to better understand the relationship between yogurt consumption, body weight and metabolic profile among children with a familial predisposition to obesity. The definitive results to the research are expected later in 2017, but Dr. Drapeau has already revealed some preliminary indications in a sneak preview. These show that yogurt consumption is associated with a better metabolic profile among children and adolescents, and that this protective effect is more marked where there is a family history of obesity. The results need to be confirmed, but they indicate that this dairy product can already be considered as a possible interesting avenue of intervention. Learn more!

Why do children prefer sweet and acidic flavors to bitter ones?

A preference for sweet flavors (and surprisingly also acidic ones) among children, and an aversion to bitterness, is a reflection of basic biological needs, according to research on the subject presented by Dr. Julie Mennella. Indeed, all children are born with a marked preference for sweet flavors. They prefer sweeter flavors than adults, but this preference for sugar diminishes at the end of adolescence, which coincides with the end of physical growth and the emergence of taste preferences comparable to those of adults. Although acidic flavors have been studied less, the same tendencies can be observed: the reaction of children to such flavors is immediate, from birth, and children also favor more acidic flavors than adults. Dr. Mennella indicated that these preferences could play tricks in our modern dietary environment, in particular leading to an excessive consumption of sugar. That is why it is important to educate about taste, with food low in calories and high in nutrients such as yogurt, from a very young age.

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