A new paper is out on the long-term outcomes of the Melbourne Infant Feeding, Activity and Nutrition Trial (INFANT). INFANT was one of the first interventions to improve health behaviours and reduce obesity from infancy at 4 months of age and concludes when children were 18 months old.
This study examined children’s health behaviours at 2- and 3.5-years post-intervention, when the children were aged 3.5 and 5 years. The results showed evidence of sustained benefits of dietary intake and reduced sedentary behaviour. Indeed, for some behaviours, the benefits were greater at follow-up than at conclusion of the intervention.
Children in the intervention group continued to consume fewer sweet snacks and watched less television than their control counterparts throughout follow-up. These benefits could have important public health implications given that only a small proportion of Australian children met national guidelines to limit discretionary food intake and screen time.
This study is one of the few childhood obesity interventions that included a long term follow up. It is also the first study to demonstrate sustained and additional intervention effects at follow-ups. Other very early childhood obesity prevention interventions typically report diminishing intervention effects over a longer period.
Chief investigator and EPOCH CRE deputy director, Professor Kylie Hesketh, commented that some benefits of early intervention may take longer to become evident and she emphasised the importance of longer-term follow up of early childhood interventions.
The study did not find evidence for longer-term effect for adiposity or physical activity which could be due to sample size and loss to follow up. Nevertheless, the positive impacts of multiple improvements of health behaviours are significant to health and wellbeing even with no change in adiposity.
The INFANT follow up paper was published in the International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity and can be accessed freely here.
The INFANT program is currently being scaled up across Victoria in partnership with various health departments, health services, researchers and community groups. For more information please visit https://www.infantprogram.org. A PhD scholarship is available to examine the impact of macronutrient intakes in early life on growth and adiposity development. Find out more here.
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