Nutritional Research In Children: A Partnership Between The USDA, Agricultural Research Service, Baylor College Of Medicine And Texas Children's Hospital

June 22, 2011


It is challenging for parents to get good advice about what to feed their children.

One of the biggest reasons for that is the limited amount of research that has been conducted on the nutritional needs of children. It is challenging to safely conduct such research in a way that leads to a good experience for the children involved and provides information that can be translated into public policy.

Beginning in 1978, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), via the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), has partnered with Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) and Texas Children's Hospital to conduct nutritional research involving and relating to children. This has been done via research conducted at the Children's Nutrition Research Center (CNRC), the largest federally funded center for research into pediatric nutrition in the U.S.

I am proud to have been a faculty member at the CNRC for exactly 20 years this July. The CNRC has conducted crucial research into the growth of breastfed infants,

the nutritional needs of all ages of children, the energy needs of children and the prevention of obesity. Research is conducted involving humans as well as cellular and animal models of nutritional disease.

The CNRC has over 60 faculty and in its nearly 33 years has produced hundreds of publications related to every aspect of pediatric nutrition. It is currently under the direction of Dr. Dennis Bier, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and expert in the metabolism of carbohydrates and endocrinology.

My research has focused on evaluating the needs of children of all ages, from preterm infants through adolescents, for key minerals such as calcium, zinc and iron needed for growth and health development. I do this using safe, non-radioactive forms of these minerals called stable isotopes. These minerals can be followed (traced) through the body to determine how they are absorbed and used for growth.

Over 1,000 infants and children have participated in my research and I believe that participation by older children has helped them better understand science and their bodies. We are grateful to the children who participate in our research and for the families who take the time to work with us on learning the best ways to feed children.

We have much to do in the future to learn how to feed children to make for healthy adults, free of overnutrition, undernutrition or other nutritional disorders. This partnership between the USDA, BCM, and Texas Children's Hospital is an important part of this effort!

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