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First-ever dietary guidelines coming for babies, given 'life sentence' if obese by age 5  1 Month ago

Source:   USA Today  

For almost 40 years, the Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have issued dietary guidelines for the general public. 

Now, amid a childhood obesity epidemic in which Harvard researchers predict 57% of children today will be obese by age 35 and there is evidence warning that it may start younger than age 2, a group has assembled to write guidelines specifically for pregnant women, infants and young children. 

The group writing the new guidelines assembled for a two-day meeting recently in Washington, D.C., according to The Washington Post.  

Lorrene Ritchie, a nutrition and nutrition policy specialist in Berkeley, California, said the guidelines to be released in 2020 can't come soon enough. 

"There was a time when we did not view 0 to 2 as a target for obesity prevention,"  Ritchie said. "We felt young children were much better at self-regulating. Obesity is the canary in the coal mine for health. It’s kind of like the climate change of public health." 

The guidelines will be the first time there has been this type of federal, evidence-based recommendation. It's too early to say what guidelines the group will recommend. But for decades, vulnerable babies, children and moms-to-be were not a specific focus of the dietary recommendations.

A Washington-based nonprofit called 1,000 Days believes the health of pregnant women and children would have been better served if they were. 

Lucy Sullivan, founder of the nonprofit, cited the medical journal the Lancet, which found in 2008 that from conception to 24 months, malnutrition was linked to a predisposition to obesity, heart disease and other health problems.   

"The papers changed the way we were looking at hunger and nutrition," Sullivan told the Post. The nonprofit works to improve a pregnant woman's and a child's health until the second birthday. "We thought, if we focus on the first 1,000 days, we have this window of opportunity."

Missing that chance can have irreversible, life-long consequences, Sullivan said.

"And if a child is overweight by age 5, there is a great risk the child will be dealing with obesity his entire life," she said. "It can be a life sentence."

The guidelines will determine the foods served in the National School Lunch program, the Special Supplemental Nutritional Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and other public and private programs, Sullivan added.

In 2018, 8.8 million women, babies and children were enrolled in WIC. 

HHS and the Agriculture Department have been issuing nutritional guideline recommendations every five years since 1980. 

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