Background: A high protein intake during infancy and early childhood has been proposed to increase the risk of subsequent obesity.
Objective: We analyzed the association of different protein intakes during 6-24 mo with body mass index (BMI; in kg/m2) and percentage body fat (%BF) at 7 y of age.
Design: The analyses included 203 participants of the DOrtmund Nutritional and Longitudinally Designed (DONALD) Study with complete information on early diet (6, 12, and 18-24 mo) and anthropometric data at the age of 7 y. The median of energy-adjusted protein intakes (in g/d) was used to distinguish different patterns of low and high protein intakes throughout the first 2 y of life, which were then related to BMI SD scores (SDSs), %BF, and the risk of overweight and overfatness at 7 y of age.
Results: Although protein intake at 6 mo of age was not associated with the outcomes, a consistently high protein intake at the ages of 12 and 18-24 mo was independently related to a higher mean BMI SDS and %BF at the age of 7 y [BMI SDS: 0.37 (95% CI: 0.12, 0.61) compared with 0.08 (95% CI: -0.09, 0.26), P = 0.04; %BF: 18.37 (95% CI: 17.29, 19.51%) compared with 16.91 (95% CI: 16.19, 17.66%), P = 0.01] and a higher risk of having a BMI or %BF above the 75th percentile at that age [odds ratio for BMI: 2.39 (95% CI: 1.14, 4.99), P = 0.02); odds ratio for %BF: 2.28 (95% CI: 1.06, 4.88), P = 0.03].
Conclusions: High protein intakes during the period of complementary feeding and the transition to the family diet are associated with an unfavorable body composition at the age of 7 y.