The first 1000 days of life

Today we are excited to introduce our 3rd collaborator and our first non-pharmacist specialist. He will be talking about the first 1000 days of human life and why nutrition and lifestyle during this critical period is of utmost importance for a healthy adult life.

Adrien Besseiche is a PhD student working in a Diabetes team at the Centre de Recherche des Cordeliers in the center of Paris, France. He studied Biological Sciences and has a Master in Metabolism and Nutrition. His PhD program studies the relationship between Glucocorticoids and the onset of type 2 Diabetes both during foetal life and in adulthood.

Besides working in medical research, he strongly feels that transmiting and sharing scientific knowledge with as many people as possible is very important and we hope to have as many collaborations with him in achieving this goal!

The beginning

All moms and dads have something to say about the birth of their child, and all parents have in common the fact that they want to give their child the best start in life. The instinct that parents have about protecting their baby is not enough to safeguard the future of the child and science now offers some valuable insight in this area. Researchers have identified the first 1000 days of the child’s life, from conception to the age of 2 years, as a critical period in which intellectual development is programed and  the child’s health capital is stored for the rest of his life (1). It is therefore a critical period of vulnerability during which nutritional experiences and environmental exposure will leave a lasting imprint on the functioning of cells, organs or biological systems and influence favorably or unfavorably the health of the person.

Your behaviors program the health of your child

This concept of the first 1000 days of life has emerged in the late 90’s and has grown immensely over the last decade and reached the conclusion that prior events (smoking, alcohol), events during (stress, undernutrition) and after pregnancy (diet, pollutants, infections) have repercussions in adulthood, especially on so-called non-communicable chronic diseases (2). You know these diseases : diabetes, obesity, hypertension, etc. They are the leading cause of death across the world (+ 17% in the next 10 years, (3)).

The programming of these chronic diseases in adulthood involves nutritional factors (nutritional deficiencies, famine, over-nutrition), environmental factors (toxics such as Bisphenol A), lifestyle factors (physical activity, sleep), psychosocial stress (depression, divorce, unemployment, war), or certain infections. There is now a certain amount of data showing that all these factors have short-term effects on early programming of the intrauterine and postnatal development, and long-term on the future health of the child (Table 1) and sometimes even on subsequent generations (4).

Early causesEffect
Intrauterine growth restriction, low birth weightType 2 diabetes, abdominal adipose overload, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, obstructive pulmonary disease
Gestational diabetes, maternal obesity during pregnancy, excessive gestational weightObesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes
PrematurityCognitive and motor retardation, type 2 diabetes
Slowed postnatal growthType 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease
Excessive postnatal growthObesity, cancer
Exposure of the mother and young child to toxicCognitive and motor retardation, obesity, early puberty, infertility, cancer, hypertension, cardiovascular disease
Maternal infections during pregnancy, early infections childAsthma, cardiovascular diseases, autism, schizophrenia
Psychosocial situation in the difficult childhood, emotional deprivationCognitive and motor retardation, emotional and behavioral disorders, obesity

Table 1: Common early adverse events and scientifically associated risks

This table may seem apocalyptic, but it helps to gauge the consequences that events during the first 1000 days of life could have in adulthood. Good news for you future parents, these are just a few simple steps to reduce the risks of your child to develop chronic diseases.

You can act for your baby

First, we often forget the role of the father, under the pretext that he does not bear the child. But his presence during and after pregnancy greatly reduces the stress of the mother and therefore that of the baby. Now we also know from fathers that eating too much fat, too little protein and smoking can have a lasting impact on the health of the child, since these three events affect the quality of sperm and the message they carry that will be transmitted to the child (5). As for the mother, her role remains essential to ensure an environment conducive to the child during this pivotal period. The more good behaviors the mother has, the more you decrease the risks for chronic disease. Here is a summary (Table 2) introducing the main behaviors you should promote.

60 days before and throughout pregnancy- Have a BMI* < 25 before conception
(both parents)
- Stop smoking and drinking alcohol
- Eat a balanced diet, reduce saturated fat intake
- Stop energy drinks and caffeine intake
- Stop the foods and flavors to which your baby is very sensitive
- Check with your doctor before using drugs during pregnancy
- Both parents must increase their folic acid intake 2 months before conception (and throughout pregnancy for the mother)
During the 6 months after birth- If possible, exclusivelly breastfeed your baby
- Do not use bottles or other nursery materials containing bisphenol A
- Since you are breast-feeding your child, eat a varied diet
- Be careful with fish (they may have a high concentration of mercury)
- Do not consume caffeine
- Encourage prolonged contact (> 30min) skin to skin between you and your child
From 6 months to 2 years
- Encourage motor activity and physical exercise for your child
- Apply a maximum of dietary diversification
- Eat meals together with your child
- Monitor vitamin D, iron, calcium and Omega 3 intake
- Significant involvement of the father in the child’s nutrition is required after the predominance of the mother during breastfeeding
-Maintain a specific milk intake (500 ml/day)

Table 2: Recommendations to parents for the first 1,000 days

Remember that your tastes and dietary diversity affect those of your child. Your child is very dependent on your physical and mental health, and very receptive to your tenderness as well as your stress and tension.

Do not forget that these tips are not miracle solutions. Following these guidelines will allow you to reduce these risks and positively contribute to your child’s health. Finally, do not forget your main mission : health prevention for your child in the family and in your community along with other parents, nurseries and schools!

Adrien and your pharmacists,

* BMI: Body Mass Index, is a measure of body fat based on height and weight that applies to adult men and women, and should be between 18 and 25.


1 / (more than 129,000 publications of epidemiological and experimental data in the last decade)

2 / (Attig, 2010-2013 ; Barker, 2012 ; Junien, 2011 ; Hochberg, 2011).

3 / (WHO Report, 2013)

4 / (Charles, 2013 ; Millan, 2013 ; Duque-Guimaraes, 2013 ; Prado & Dewey, 2012)

5 / (Lambrot, 2013 ; Ng, 2010 ; Carone, 2010)

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