How to give your maternal and children’s nutrition innovation pipeline an immunity boost

By Talking Nutrition Editors

When it comes to immunity, it’s never too early

Concerns about immunity are at an all-time high, leading consumers to seek ways to protect themselves against illnesses and disease. DSM’s four-part webinar series explores the concept of self-care, looking at how a holistic approach to wellness can help support a healthy immune system. In the second session, ‘A Stealthy Start’ our panel of experts in maternal and early life nutrition examined the role of nutrition in supporting immune health for a more resilient future. 

Below are some key takeaways from the webinar - but you can access the full session on demand here.

Nourishing a stealthy start

We all want the best for our children and this protective behavior starts early on in life – even before birth. As shared by DSM’s Early Life Nutrition Segment Lead, Marlena Hidlay, pregnant women have an innate instinct to safeguard their children which means moms proactively seek out ways to ensure the best start in life for their offspring. From a nutritional point of view, moms-to-be are increasingly on the lookout for nourishing prenatal products that are ‘complete and balanced’ and ‘support mom and baby’s nutritional needs’.

The latest DSM Attitude & Usage Studies  revealed a heightened interest in immunity among mothers looking to support their child’s resilience to illness:

  • “Delivering important antibodies” and “helping build baby’s immune system” are the top two reasons to breastfeed, demonstrating an awareness early on of the importance of building a child’s natural defenses
  • Popular infant formula claims moms look for are “closest to breastmilk” and “supports immune system development”3
  • “Developing a strong immune system” is a top three health concern for moms of toddlers4
  • Immunity support is the number one functional benefit moms are looking for in a kids supplement5

It's clear that when it comes to early life nutrition, building a strong and resilient immune system for their children is an important priority for moms. So, what can dietary supplement manufacturers do to appeal to young and growing families?

Know your vitamin A-Z

Exploring the science behind the nutrition, Sonia Hartunian-Sowa PhD, Director of Nutrition Science & Advocacy at DSM in North America, delved further into immune health in pregnancy and early childhood to shed light on the nutrients they should be looking for. Moms-to-be have a weakened immune system during pregnancy making them more susceptible to illnesses, which is why they are often offered the flu shot. Not only does it reduce the risk of associated respiratory tract infections by approximately 50% but it can help protect infants for several months after birth.

In pregnancy and beyond, the immune system needs specific micronutrients, which work in harmony at every stage of the immune response. Vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E and folate, as well as minerals zinc, iron, selenium, magnesium and copper, plus omega-3 fatty acids, are all vital for a healthy immune system. 

Vitamin C is well known for its immune-boosting benefits. Research shows that high-level vitamin C supplementation (200 mg) is safe in pregnancy too, as long as women keep their dietary intake under 2,000 mg per day.7 Emerging evidence is also stacking up in favor of vitamin D. In addition to its potential for lowering the incidence rate of acute upper respiratory tract infections, an expert panel has recommended varying dosages of the vitamin at different stages in pregnancy to help with common childhood illnesses like eczema, asthma and food allergies. 

Despite growing awareness of consuming the right nutrients in pregnancy, there continues to be a vast nutritional gap across the globe, as expectant moms struggle to increase their levels through diet alone. This is especially true of omega-3s eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), with pregnant women looking to supplementation to help them consume the recommended dose of 250 mg EPA and DHA per day. With these deficiencies in mind, there is an opportunity to educate moms-to-be, especially as mounting evidence supports the micronutrients’ role in reducing the risk of early preterm and preterm birth, as well as boosting overall immune function.

Putting immunity first

So now we know the science to back up the health claims, how does this translate to a real patient experience? Dr. Lauren Crosby, pediatrician at LaPeer Pediatrics, nationally recognized parenting expert and mom-of-two shared her thoughts with attendees. First and foremost, parents visit her practice with one question in mind: “How can my children live a long and healthy life?”

According to Dr. Crosby, establishing good nutrition early on in life is at the heart of an optimal immune system. Not eating well means that kids don’t have the energy to exercise, potentially affecting their ability to sleep at night, which can then in turn, negatively impact their mental health. It’s never too early to learn about the rights foods to eat either; here, language is key – helping to appeal to a child’s interests and getting them more involved with their managing their own health and wellbeing. 

But pediatricians have faced a different challenge lately, which is making it even more difficult for kids to get the right nutrition. The nutrition gap is getting wider, further exacerbated by the pandemic, with global food shortages and so-called regional ‘lockdowns’ reducing access to essential vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin D. For those families that have poor nutrition – and there are a growing number – supplementation could be the answer. Encouraging fussy kids to take supplements can be challenging, however, as any parent knows. Innovation in immune health solutions is therefore a growing focus area for dietary supplement manufacturers.

Innovation inspiration

A number of immunity based concepts were shared during the webinar that have been specifically designed with children and teens in mind, including formats such as immunity stick packs and droppers, helping to increase appeal for parents and kids alike. 

At DSM, we know life is healthier when it’s supported from the beginning. That’s why we’re committed to delivering high-quality, insight-driven, innovative nutritional solutions at every stage of your product’s development. This takes more than ingredients. It takes a partner. From designing scientifically-driven concepts with functional benefits to delivering consumer-validated insights to help inform your pipeline, DSM is your end-to-end partner for early life nutrition.

A holistic approach to immunity 

This webinar series aims to the change the conversation about immunity by shifting attention towards the holistic contributors to better health and immunity – sleep, stress, nutrition during pregnancy and early life as well as gut health.

Published on

12 September 2020



5 min read

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  1. DSM Infant/Toddler A&U Study, 2017, DSM Maternal A&U Study, 2017 and DSM Kids A&U Study, 2019
  2. DSM Maternal A&U Study, 2017
  3. DSM Infant/Toddler A&U Study, 2017
  4. DSM Infant/Toddler A&U Study, 2017
  5. DSM Kids A&U Study, 2019
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ‘Addressing concerns pregnant women might have about influenza vaccine safety’, 2019 [website, accessed 09/17/20].
  7. Dietary intakes based on NHANES 2013-2014: UL based on IOM. 

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