There have been many remarkable advances in pediatric nutrition. Solid scientific evidence now supports certain fundamental assumptions long held in the pediatric community. For example, obesity in children has for some time been believed to have adverse health effects; recent large scale studies now confirm relationships between childhood obesity and specific morbidities. Likewise, the beneficial effects of human breast milk on growth and development have been the focus of recent prospective studies of full term and preterm infants. There has been active research in the area of formula intolerance and allergy, allowing practicing physicians to better counsel parents about dietary choices. Although many health problems are caused by the abundance of high fat and high calorie foods in the average US child’s diet, a large number of children remain at risk for hunger in the United States.
Other research provides important breakthroughs in our understanding of the impact of pediatric nutrition on lifelong health. Retrospective epidemiological studies have uncovered relationships between prenatal factors and health later in life. These studies have lead to ongoing prospective observational trials that should provide further information about the extent to which certain health factors are determined before birth. In addition, basic science research has revealed previously unknown mechanisms by which essential minerals, such as iron, are transported into the body. In sum, this section reviews exciting new information in the areas of childhood diet quality, obesity, breast milk, formula intolerance, and iron metabolism.