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Asia Pacific: Nestlé joins international researchers on studying infant growth

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Nestlé is to intensify its research in the field of epigenetics, the science of how eating behaviors and other environmental factors can affect one’s genes, health and that of his/her offspring, for future generations to come.

The company will contribute CHF 22 million (US$21.68 million) to a six-year research partnership with an international alliance of researchers at institutions in Southampton, UK, Auckland, New Zealand and Singapore, who make up the EpiGen Consortium.

The jointly-funded public-private partnership will be one of the largest of its kind.

Nestlé has been collaborating with the Consortium since 2011, studying how the diet and lifestyles of pregnant women influence the activity of their baby’s genes and how these subtle epigenetic changes impact the future healthy growth and development of their children.

Positive impact

“This is an important collaboration for Nestlé as it will help to better develop our understanding of the influence of nutrition and genetics at the beginning of life and continue to build our knowledge in this important area,” said the company’s CTO, Stefan Catsicas.

The collaboration aims to improve nutrition and reduce risk factors of pregnancy-related conditions such as gestational diabetes, a growing problem affecting about 20% of pregnancies in the Southeast Asia region. Gestational diabetes is known to negatively impact the growth and development of children as well as the mother’s future health.

“Science shows that the nutrition infants and young children receive in the first 1,000 days from conception has a long-lasting influence on their health, wellness and quality of life,” said Heiko Schipper, CEO of Nestlé Nutrition.

“One strength of the EpiGen Consortium is our ability to study mothers and infants across three very different populations, adding further insight into the relationship between genetic background and nutritional influences on disease burden for the mother and infant,” said the University of Southampton’s Keith Godfrey, head of the EpiGen Science Management Group.

The Nestlé scientists working in this research programme are based at Nestlé Research Center in Lausanne, the world’s largest, private food nutrition research organisation.