Just as your body changes with each stage of life, your nutrition needs change too. Consider the role of protein in the body. In infancy, it's a critical part of growth and development; while in adulthood, protein may help you maintain a healthy BMI or body mass index. And as you age, it can help you support the lean muscle you need to stay active.
The same holds true for other nutrients like vitamins, minerals and certain fats. Researchers at Abbott have been studying the role nutrition plays from early infancy to late adulthood to help people better nourish every stage of life. If you're wondering which nutrients you need now — and in the future — these experts share the latest insights from nutrition science.
A woman's diet during pregnancy plays a pivotal role in both the mother's and baby's health.
“Nutrition during pregnancy is critical. In utero, a growing baby will develop 100 to 200 billion brain cells,” says Matthew Kuchan, Ph.D., a discovery scientist with Abbott.
Infancy and Childhood
A healthy gut is the foundation for a healthy immune system so it's critical that a baby gets the building blocks from the start.
"Human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) feed the beneficial bacteria in the gut where 70 percent of a baby's immune system is found," explains Rachael Buck, Ph.D., an Abbott scientist and expert in immune health.
"In the first year of life, a baby's brain is developing quickly, making hundreds of thousands of neural connections every day— faster than any other time in life," says Kuchan. "Getting critical nutrients is important for supporting this rapid window of physical growth and development."
Whether you're running your first marathon or simply trying to maintain a healthy BMI, the right nutrients can make a world of difference.
"Because we may begin to naturally lose muscle after we turn 40 — as much as 8 percent of overall muscle mass every decade — getting enough protein every day is even more important as we age," explains Jacqueline Boff, Ph.D., M.B.A., a research scientist at Abbott.
According to a review paper in Age and Ageing, one in three adults over age 50 experiences advanced muscle and strength loss, or sarcopenia, which can increase the risk of falls and fractures, hospitalization, and lead to slower recovery from illness or surgery.
For aging adults, an even higher protein intake is recommended to support muscle and strength needs.
You've always known good nutrition is important. And now you can aim to get the nutrients you want and need in your diet at each important life stage.