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