In 1988, the Steering Committee of Euronut, a Concerted Action of the European Union in the field of Nutrition and Health focused on the paucity of supranational European growth data that could be used as a reference. It was apparent that the World Health Organization (WHO) International Growth References were outdated and did not reflect growth of infants and children who were fed according to the present feeding recommendations. The Committee also emphasized that representative European studies that focused on the long-term effects on growth of nutritional, socioeconomic, lifestyle, and geographic factors were not available. Therefore, the Euro-Growth project was initiated. The Euro-Growth Steering Committee developed a study protocol that was approved by Euronut in 1990. The major goals of this project were to evaluate the following:
longitudinal growth patterns of European children and to develop reference growth charts;
dietary habits of European infants and toddlers;
influence of nutritional, socioeconomic, lifestyle, and geographical factors on growth and health; and
iron and iodine status of European children (subprojects).
It was decided that a multicenter, longitudinal cohort study should be performed in different European regions. The European Society of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition (ESPGHAN) and the Federation of Nutrition Societies (FENS) distributed the study protocol to research groups from all European countries and invited them to participate. Twenty-two research centers from 11 European countries with adequate research facilities agreed to participate. Longitudinal data, collected from 1990 through 1996 on European children between 0 and 3 years of age, were the subject of the first part of the study and are presented in this report.
As in all projects of this type, the Euro-Growth Steering Committee did not work alone. We acknowledge the support provided by the respective research institutions with which our members are affiliated (Table 1). For their thorough guidance, review, and suggestions the Euro-Growth Steering Committee appreciates the contributions of the Euronut Steering Committee (project coordinator, J. Hautvast); P. J. Aggett, Lancashire Postgraduate School of Medicine and Health, Preston, UK; K. Bergmann, Robert Koch Institute, Berlin, Germany; T. J. Cole, Medical Research Council Human Nutrition Research, Cambridge, UK (external reviewer of the manuscripts); J. Gorstein, Department of International Health, University of Michigan, U.S.A.; J. Rey, Necker–Enfants Malades, Paris, France; E. E. Ziegler, Department of Pediatrics, University of Iowa, U.S.A. (external reviewer of the manuscripts); M. de Onis, WHO, Geneva, Switzerland; R. Bergmann, Department of Pediatrics, Charitè, Virchow Klinik, Berlin; and W. Dewitz, Zentraleinrichtung für Audiovisuelle Medlen der Freien Universitat Berlin, Berlin, Germany. Laboratory work for the iron study was performed at the University of Vienna, Austria (C. Male), and the University of California Davis, U.S.A. (B. Lönnerdal). For the iodine study, we received support from the Laboratoire Centrale, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois, Lausanne (C. Bachmann, E. Haschke-Becher), and Nestlé Research Center (P. Kastenmayer), Lausanne, Switzerland. Data management was provided by J. Mulder, R. Aarts, and A. van't Hof-Grootenboer, Nijmegen University, The Netherlands.
The Euro-Growth study was assisted financially by Euronut and a grant from the Austrian Ministry of Science and Research to cover the costs for coordination, analysis, and publication. The Steering Committee acknowledges financial support that was provided to the study centers for data collection (in France: Alliance 7). The committee thanks each of the institutions that hosted its meetings: Department of Pediatrics, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria; Department of Epidemiology Robert Koch Institute, Berlin, Germany; Department of Human Nutrition, Wageningen University, The Netherlands; Kinderspital Salzburg, Salzburg, Austria; Department of Medical Statistics, Nijmegen University, The Netherlands; Department of Pediatrico, Madrid University, Madrid, Spain; Department of Neonatology, Athens University, Athens, Greece; Departmento di Pediatria, University Federico II, Naples, Italy; and Necker–Enfants Malades, Paris, France.
Finally, we express the wish that the results of this cooperative effort contribute to a better scientific understanding of growth and nutrition and help to further improve guidelines for nutrition of infants and small children.