Impact of a Nutritional Supplement During Gestation and Early Childhood on Child Salivary Cortisol, Hair Cortisol, and Telomere Length at 4-6 Years of Age: A Follow-Up of a Randomized Controlled Trial
Dysregulation of the stress response can occur early in life and may be affected by nutrition. Our objective was to evaluate the long-term effect of nutritional supplementation during gestation and early childhood on child cortisol and buccal telomere length (a marker of cellular aging) at 4-6 years of age. We conducted a follow-up study of children born to women who participated in a nutritional supplementation trial in Ghana. In one group, a lipid-based nutrient supplement (LNS) was provided to women during gestation and the first 6 months postpartum and to their infants from age 6 to 18 months. The control groups received either iron and folic acid (IFA) during gestation or multiple micronutrients during gestation and the first 6 months postpartum, with no infant supplementation. At age 4-6 years, we measured hair cortisol, buccal telomere length, and salivary cortisol before and after a stressor. Salivary cortisol was available for 364 children across all three trial arms and hair cortisol and telomere length were available for a subset of children (n = 275 and 278, respectively) from the LNS and IFA groups. Telomere length, salivary cortisol, and hair cortisol did not differ by supplementation group. Overall, these findings suggest that nutritional supplementation given during gestation and early childhood does not have an effect on child stress response or chronic stress in children at 4-6 years. Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier NCT00970866.Lay SummaryThis study addressed a research gap about whether improved nutrition during pregnancy and early childhood impacts telomere length and cortisol in preschool children. There was no difference in child telomere length or cortisol between two trial arms of a nutritional supplementation trial that began during pregnancy. The research outcomes indicate lipid-based nutrient supplements, a relatively new form of supplementation, do not have an effect on markers of stress or cellular aging measured in later childhood.