The University of Colorado has announced a five-year, $11 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to research the impact of maternal nutrition before and during the early stages of pregnancy.
The grant will support research in Guatemala, India, Pakistan, and Zambia on the benefits for women of starting a daily micronutrient-fortified lipid-based nutrition supplement — with additional calories for underweight participants — at least three months before conception, as opposed to twelve weeks after gestation. The babies born to each group also will be compared with those born to women in a control group who receive the same home visits, education, and support for hygiene and nutrition but do not receive the supplement.
The project will be led by Michael Hambidge, professor emeritus and principal investigator, and professor Nancy Krebs of the Nutrition Section of the University of Colorado School of Medicine's Department of Pediatrics. Hambidge and Krebs' earlier research suggests that it is not enough to provide babies with good nutrition after birth and seems to support growing evidence of the importance of maternal nutrition before and early in pregnancy.
"Many nutrition-related interventions, including some of our own, have had surprisingly little impact on reproductive outcomes, including especially postnatal infant growth," said Krebs. "The evidence strongly points to the importance of extending the critical window to the health of the woman before she enters pregnancy because so much of the programming for later outcomes occurs in the very earliest days and weeks of gestation. The challenge to improve the nutritional health of women before they become pregnant is very daunting, but the beneficial pay-off is potentially profound."