THE EARNEST PROJECT - Investigating the effect of Beneo(TM)Synergy1 on allergy risk in neonates

ORAFTI Active Food Ingredients, world leader in natural prebiotic ingredients, announces the launch of a long-term study to look at the effects of prebiotic infant formulas supplemented with BeneoTMSynergy1 on the development of the neonatal immune system and the incidence of allergy in infants. The study is part of the EARNEST project, an EU-funded initiative aiming to assess the importance of early nutrition on the modulation of adult disease risk.

There is a growing body of evidence to support the notion that early nutrition can play an important role in the prevention of disease later in life. Early findings by Barker and colleagues (1989) demonstrated a link between the risk of heart disease and maternal nutrition (fetal birth weight). With the increasing prevalence of allergic diseases, especially among infants over the past 35-40 years, new evidence has also pinpointed the effects of early nutrition on the occurrence of allergies. It has been suggested that reduced microbial stimulation during infancy and early childhood may be the cause - slowing down the maturation of the immune system and the development of an optimal balance between Th1- and Th2- like immunity.

Prebiotic ingredients, like inulin and oligofructose, selectively stimulate the growth and activity of endogenous bifidobacteria and lactobacilli, thus improving gut health and modulating immune response. Therefore, inulin and oligofructose are expected to play an important role in lowering immune responses towards an allergy-like phenotype, a role which the EARNEST Project aims to explore further.

Douwina Bosscher, Nutrition Research Manager at ORAFTI, comments, “We have a long standing history of participating in EU-projects and we are fully committed to investing our time and efforts into the EARNEST Project. This large, collaborative scientific investigation brings together a hugely respected and influential multi-disciplinary team of scientists from academia and industry across Europe. The study will investigate early nutrition programming using an approach which integrates knowledge from randomized controlled trials and prospective observational studies, as well as animal, cellular and molecular techniques. It is hoped that the conclusion of the study in 2010 will enable a better understanding of the extent to which nutritional influences in early life can affect a person’s development, metabolism and health in adulthood.”

A major focus of EARNEST is to perform controlled intervention studies into the early nutritional programming of diseases and how dietary factors can modulate their development. The new study investigates the effect of the prebiotic BeneoTMSynergy1 (oligofructose-enriched inulin) in infants with a family history of atopic disease. From birth and throughout the first year of life, high-risk infants included in the study receive infant formula that is either supplemented with BeneoTMSynergy1 (0.8 g/100 ml) or is without any supplementation (control group). These infants will also be followed during their second year and the overall health and well-being of the infants will be assessed and the composition of their intestinal microbial flora compared. A battery of immunological markers from different body samples (urine, blood and feces) will also be measured at given time points throughout the study. Clinical outcomes of allergy will be carefully monitored throughout the study and in further follow-up. Thus the study will provide new data on the immuno-modulating effects of BeneoTMSynergy1 and its potential for reducing the risk for allergy during infancy.

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EARNEST is an Integrated Project in the EU 6th Framework Program. The acronym EARNEST stands for EARly Nutrition programming-long term follow up of Efficacy and Safety Trials and integrated epidemiological, genetic, animal and consumer economic research.

ORAFTI is part of the ingredients business unit of Südzucker Group (Germany) and operates in more than 75 countries. ORAFTI produces Beneo™ inulin and oligofructose from chicory roots for human and animal nutrition. ORAFTI's head office is in Tienen, Belgium with production units in Oreye (Belgium), and Pemuco (Chile).

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