Early Nutrition and Health research group

The impact of the early nutritional environment during pregnancy, lactation and infancy is of vast importance for the health of both the mother and the child. One out of every three pregnant women is overweight or obese. Obesity predisposes women to the development of gestational diabetes and to postpartum type two diabetes, and increases the risk of metabolic disorders and overweight in the child, which continues until adulthood. The goal of the research group is to provide a scientific basis for the relationship between diet and health, focusing on the effects of maternal nutrition on both maternal and child health. 

Take a closer view of our research group and projects below!


The main research project is FOPP (Fish Oil and Probiotics in Pregnancy). FOPP is an on-going clinical intervention trial in which the impact of probiotic supplementation is investigated together with long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (fish oil) in pregnant overweight women. The randomised, placebo-controlled intervention trial produces the highest level of evidence for drawing conclusions on the relationships between early nutrition and health. The specific focus of the trial is to determine whether these dietary supplements can decrease the risk of gestational diabetes in overweight mothers and allergic diseases in their children. The biological sample pool is used to study metabolism, including glucose and lipid metabolism, low-grade inflammation and metabolomics, as well as microbiota. A key approach is the evaluation of interactions between diet, microbiota and metabolism in clinical health outcomes, including body composition, as part of a holistic approach.​

The aim of the LIFE project (LIfestyle in Pregnancy and Health) is the utilisation of scientific research results to promote the nutrition and health of mothers and children by offering new tools for clinical, societal and industrial actions. In addition to continuing the follow-up visits from the FOPP clinical trial, the LIFE project comprehensively addresses the nutrition of overweight pregnant women, while exploring new means of supporting a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy through E-health approaches.

          Some members of our study group. Up left: Noora Houttu, Kati Mokkala. 
                    Down left: Ella Koivuniemi, Päivi Isaksson, Kirsi Laitinen.

We also have several on-going studies related to dietary intake as well as the development and testing of methods for dietary intake assessment in different groups of individuals, with the primary focus groups being children and pregnant women.

​In the LILA project (Leikki-Ikäisten LAsten ravinto), the diet quality of pre-school aged children (2 to 6 years) is explored in a nationwide cohort. The utilisation of the diet quality index, the previously developed short method for assessing diet quality, is evaluated in the public healthcare setting of well-baby clinics. 

In the AKORA project (AlaKOululaisten RAvinto), a short method is being developed to measure diet quality in primary school-aged (7 to 12 years) children. AKORA is being conducted in Turku in Southwest Finland and Kuopio in Eastern Finland. 

The BoCoPe study (Body Composition in Paediatrics) is being performed in children with chronic inflammation-related diseases. This study focuses on investigating the nutritional status of the children, particularly on the relationships between body composition, inflammation and gut microbiota.

We collaborate with several national and international research groups, including Turku University Hospital, the University of Turku, University of Helsinki, University of Eastern Finland, University of Southampton (UK), University of Surrey (UK) and University of Maastricht (Netherlands). 

The key funding bodies of the research group include the Academy of Finland, Business Finland (former Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation), Juho Vainio Foundation, Diabetes Research Foundation, Päivikki and Sakari Sohlberg Foundation and Governmental Funding ERVA. The PhD students have received funding from the Turku Clinical Graduate School, Diabetes Research Foundation, Orion Research Foundation, Turku University Foundation Päivikki and Sakari Sohlberg Foundation and Finnish Food and Drink Industries’ Federation. ​


 Contact information

Study email: nutritionresearch@utu.fi

Principal investigator: Kirsi Laitinen 

Associate professor, PhD, registered dietitian

Institute of Biomedicine 
20014 Turun yliopisto

email: kirsi.laitinen@utu.fi​​

20014 Turun yliopisto, Finland
Tel. +358 29 450 5000

People search

Follow us: 
Facebook   Twitter   Instagram   Youtube   LinkedIn
© University of Turku