Children's Nutrition Research Centre

Established in 1991, the Children’s Nutrition Research Centre is one of Australia’s leading paediatric nutrition research groups with a global reputation for research that improves the nutritional health of children and adolescents. 

Our research is particularly focused on the influence of nutrition on a child’s health during their first one thousand days of life - from  preconception through to early childhood. Under this umbrella, we are conducting research in growth and development, infant and toddler nutrition, and gut health. 

We also work alongside industry to provide high quality nutrition education and training to Health Care Professionals and educational resources for parents and educators. This enables us to translate our research knowledge into practice, and to support clinicians and families to give children the best nutritional care, optimise the health of sick children, and prevent later disease onset through poor diet.

Did you know?

  • More than a quarter of Australian children are overweight or obese and at risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
  • More than 60 per cent fo Australian children are predicted to be overweight or obese by 2040.
  • Australia has the highest rates of food allergy reported in the Western world, affecting 1 in 20 Australian children and 2 in 100 adults.
  • Since 1990, there has been a five-fold increase in hospitalisations for severe reactions due to food allergy.
  • New guidelines for infant feeding and allergy prevention now recommend that all infants should be given allergenic solid foods such as peanut butter, cooked egg, dairy and wheat products in their first year of life.

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2017 Highlights

New collaborations to influence policy, health practice and family behaviour
Group leader, Professor Peter Davies was made the inaugural Chair of the Early Life Nutrition Coalition at a launch at Parliament House, Canberra on 4 December. The Coalition is an affiliation of professional, academic, advocacy, corporate and healthcare groups that seeks to promote the importance of early life nutrition as a long term preventative health measure to healthcare professionals, parents and adolescents. The launch attracted national media coverage and the Coalition has been tasked to provide a policy paper to the Federal Minister for Health and Sport, the Hon Greg Hunt, by the end of 2017.

Supporting health professionals with the facts 
The centre developed fact sheets for healthcare professionals on the topics of Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy, The Benefits of Breastfeeding, Infant Colic, Introducing solids to infants and Reflux. The fact sheets are published on the Child Health
Research Centre website at: www.child-healthresearch.centre.uq.edu.au/health-professionals/nutrition-and-infant-feeding-fact-sheets.

The Children’s Nutrition Research Symposium 
In October 2017, we hosted our annual Education symposium – a one day event that attracted more than 100 healthcare professionals from across Queensland and interstate. The event focused on the use of pre-and pro-biotics in childhood
nutrition in health and disease and communicated the novel research taking place within our centre. 

Graduating students
Dr Anna Joy Samidurai and Dr Paula Smith-Brown were awarded their PhDs at the end of 2017 for work that aimed to determine the iodine status of Queensland Children and the associations with diet and thyroid function; and the developmental origins of microbiota, body composition and diet in 2-3 year old Australian children.

Hard work reaps rewards for star nutrition student
Prior to her graduation in December 2017, PhD candidate Paula Smith-Brown was awarded the Australia/New Zealand Nestle Nutrition Institute Young Investigator Award and the South East Asia Pacific Rim Young Investigator Award for her paper titled: “Mother’ secretor status affects development of children’s microbiota composition and function: A pilot study”. Paula has since graduated and hopes to continue her work exploring the influence of microbiota on body composition in children.

Research Impact

Our researchers work closely with doctors, nurses, dietitians and other heallth professionals to seek answers to questions like:

  • How does a mother's health at conception and during pregnancy impact on a child's likelihood of developing obesity or chronic disease later in life?
  • How do early infant feeding practises shape future health, in particular the development of allergies and chronic diseases?
  • How can we promote healthy body composition and grwoth if a child is sick or injured?
  • How does a child's gut bacteria influence their likelihood of becoming obese or developing allergies?
  • Do probiotics play a role in preventing or minimising teh effects of allergic conditions like asthma or eczema?

How our research benefits children

Better nourishment for kids with cancer
CNRC researchers have developed a screening tool for children with cancer to assess whether they are malnourished. The tool was developed after our studies showed that many children become malnourished during cancer treatment and that the long term health outcomes are worse for these children, even if they survive the cancer. The tool is now in use in hospitals across the globe.

Nutrition and cystic fibrosis (CF)
Nutrition plays a very important role in the treatment and management of children with CF. As these children now live longer, many long-term health problems associated with their inability to absorb key vitamins and nutrients are emerging. Our research has shown that children with CF tend to have an altered body composition and this may prevent them from developing and maintaining a strong skeleton. This information is now being used to trial children with low impact vibration therapy to improve their bone health.

Helping parents to make good choices
Our research is helping parents to understand whether toddler formulas are beneficial for their children. With ongoing debate about whether to give young children toddler formula (that contains added nutrients and probiotics) or cow’s milk, this study and others, are giving parents and health professionals the information they need to make good choices about nutrition.

Guiding parents to optimise their child’s health
As a member of the Australia and New Zealand Early Life Nutrition Working Party, Professor Peter Davies co-authored a booklet for new parents titled “Nurturing future health through nutrition”. This booklet summarises the panel’s key recommendations as clear nutritional guidelines that are easy for parents to put into practice. The helpful nutritional guide is now distributed in both Australia and New Zealand to approximately 80 per cent of new parents.

Download the booklet

 

Body Composition Laboratory

The Centre funds and maintains one of the world's best equipped Body Composition Laboratories. It has a wide range of state-of-the-art equipment for non-invasively assessing body composition in health and disease. The laboratory supports clinicians in Queensland hospitals and outpatient clinics, providing the equipment and expertise necessary to run tests and interpret results

Learn more about the Body Composition Laboratory