New Study Investigates Links Between Infant Fat Mass and Future Health


BRUSSELS, BELGIUM – 9 November 2023

In the realm of global health, the first 1,000 days of a child's life are pivotal, shaping long-term health and influencing the prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCD). The Global Disease Burden report underscores the significant role played by both under and overnutrition in mortality and morbidity attributed to NCD.

Recognizing the critical need to identify early markers for potential NCD risks, a new study by ILSI Europe explores the connections between infant body composition (0-2 years) and subsequent health beyond the age of 2.

Entitled “Infant Fat Mass and Later Child and Adolescent Health Outcomes: A Systematic Review,” this publication examines 30 high-quality studies out of 6015 initially identified articles to establish associations between infant body composition and 19 health outcomes after the age of 2 years.

While a handful of studies hint at a positive link between infant adiposity and future adiposity or BMI, this new study emphasizes that the validity of infant body composition as a biomarker for future health remains inconclusive. The authors underscore the pressing need for carefully designed, standardized studies, highlighting the importance of understanding the value of infant body composition in predicting later health.

Chair of the expert group Neena Modi from Imperial College London stated “Our study highlights the clear need for collaborative longitudinal studies to identify reliable biomarkers in infancy and childhood that are predictive of later health. We urge funders and all interested in improving the health of future generations to establish such global resources.

Lead author Federica Amati from Imperial College London commented “This study adds to a growing body of evidence that identifying risk factors early in life is helpful for disease prevention. Body composition in infancy, and how it changes over the life course, should be the focus of longitudinal studies to better understand its potential as a biomarker for overall health.

Chair of the ILSI Europe’s Early Nutrition and Long-Term Health Task Force Eurídice Castañeda-Gutiérrez from H&H Group added “Validation of early biomarkers of later health is crucial to optimize nutritional solutions for infants and young children. This study suggests that body composition is a potential marker of later adiposity, but more studies are needed. Future joint efforts between academy and industry will be key to generating conclusive data in this direction.

This study marks a significant step towards progress in unraveling the mysteries of early-life health indicators, paving the way for more targeted interventions and a healthier future for the next generation.

For more information on this study, please refer to the original publication: “Amati F, McCann L, Castañeda-Gutiérrez E, et al. Infant fat mass and later child and adolescent health outcomes: a systematic review. Archives of Disease in Childhood Published Online First: 08 November 2023. doi: 10.1136/archdischild-2023-325798” which is now available online.

About the authors

The experts who contributed to this work— Federica Amati, Lucy Jane McCann, Eurídice Castañeda-Gutiérrez, Emily Prior, Carolien van Loo-Bouwman, Marieke Abrahamse-Berkeveld, Elena Oliveros, Susan E Ozanne, Michael Symonds, Matthieu Flourakis, Ching-Yu Chang, and Neena Modi —are among the leading scientists in the field from both industry and academia. This representation across multiple sectors ensures objective and reliable content.

This work was coordinated by the ILSI Europe Early Life and Long-term Health Force.

For more information about the Task Force, please visit: