Ethical Challenges in Infant Feeding Research.
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Infants have a complex set of nutrient requirements to meet the demands of their high metabolic rate, growth, and immunological and cognitive development. Infant nutrition lays the foundation for health throughout life. While infant feeding research is essential, it must be conducted to the highest ethical standards. The objective of this paper is to discuss the implications of developments in infant nutrition for the ethics of infant feeding research and the implications for obtaining informed consent. A search was undertaken of the papers in the medical literature using the PubMed, Science Direct, Web of Knowledge, Proquest, and CINAHL databases. From a total of 9303 papers identified, the full text of 87 articles that contained discussion of issues in consent in infant feeding trials were obtained and read and after further screening 42 papers were included in the results and discussion. Recent developments in infant nutrition of significance to ethics assessment include the improved survival of low birth weight infants, increasing evidence of the value of breastfeeding and evidence of the lifelong importance of infant feeding and development in the first 1000 days of life in chronic disease epidemiology. Informed consent is a difficult issue, but should always include information on the value of preserving breastfeeding options. Project monitoring should be cognisant of the long term implications of growth rates and early life nutrition.
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