When infants are exposed to poor nutrition in the womb or shortly after birth, their metabolism is altered to compensate for this situation. It has recently been shown that these infants, who are often born small and then catch-up, actually have a higher risk of developing chronic diseases in adulthood including obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and Alzheimer's disease. Some nutrients, such as the amino acid methionine, have dual roles during growth. Methionine is incorporated into protein and is responsible for methylation reactions, which are critical in maintaining health. These methylation reactions also program DNA in infants, which can permanently change the person's susceptibility to disease later in life. Methylation reactions also depend on other nutrients such as folate and choline, which are often deficient in mothers and infants.
How much methionine you need when exposed to these deficiencies is the focus of this research. Furthermore, how the body decides how much methionine is delivered to each process when nutrients are scarce will shed light on how this decision can lead to development of chronic diseases in adulthood. Overall, this research will help optimize nutrition recommendations for infants and potentially prevent chronic diseases later in life.