First Singapore baby in nutritional cohort study could help in the war on diabetes and obesity
Oct 13, 2016

Multinational study aims to help would-be mothers give their children the best start to life through nutritional intervention

In July, the first Singapore baby was born in a novel clinical study, which could help mothers optimise their nutritional health, starting even before pregnancy. In Singapore’s fight against chronic diseases such as diabetes and obesity, this study will provide valuable information into the long-term effects of a woman’s diet on her future child’s health.

The baby boy was born at the National University Hospital (NUH) on 6 July 2016 in a study which is being carried out across three centres: Singapore, Auckland in New Zealand and Southampton in the United Kingdom. The study is known as Nutritional Intervention Preconception and during Pregnancy to maintain healthy glucosE levels and offspRing health, or NiPPeR. The study investigates how a specially-formulated nutritional supplement taken before and during pregnancy could improve the health of the baby in the first year of life and beyond.

Says Ms Wong Xue Yun, 29, mother of Jasper Ting (her second child), “I believe the greatest gift I can give my children is to raise them up healthily. I hope my participation in this NiPPeR study can help future mothers avoid gestational diabetes and lower the risk of their children becoming obese.” Both mother and baby are doing well.

There is increasing evidence that the mother’s nutritional state as she enters pregnancy is important for the baby’s development and life-long health. For example, if the mother has high blood sugar levels in pregnancy, it can predispose the baby to having increased body fat and diabetes in later life. Researchers also think that the food women eat, even before they are pregnant, can influence the risk of childhood obesity and other disorders later in life by switching genes on or off.

15 to 20 percent of women in their twenties and thirties in Singapore already have a pre-diabetic condition, otherwise known as impaired glucose tolerance [1]. Not only does this put them at risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future, they are also at significant risk of gestational diabetes with attendant consequences on the long-term health of their babies. Singapore has the second-highest prevalence rate of diabetes among developed nations, according to a 2015 report by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF). [2]

Beginning before conception, the study provides all participating women with a nutrient drink containing vitamins and mineral supplements already recommended for pregnancy. Half the women also get additional supplements, such as probiotics, as part of the trial. Follow ups are done with the women at regular milestones for the duration of the pregnancy and during their baby’s first year of life.

The study aims to evaluate the benefits of the nutrient mixes for the mother and baby. Through this intervention, researchers are studying the effects on maintaining healthy levels of blood sugar, vitamins and minerals in the mother, and the potential to promote a healthy pregnancy and healthy growth and development of the child. In addition, the study will generate a rich “biobank” of blood, urine, hair and other biological samples that will be collected throughout the trial to answer important questions about how to provide babies with the best start to life.

Associate Professor Chong Yap Seng, Principal Investigator of the study in Singapore and Executive Director at the Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences (SICS) of the Agency for Science, Research and Technology (A*STAR) said, “Through this novel study, we can glean new insights into the long-term effects of pre-conception nutrition on the health of future offspring. This has significant potential to change the way we manage prenatal care and nutrition. Greater awareness has the potential to improve public health in the long run.” Associate Professor Chong is also a faculty member with the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine as well as Senior Consultant with the NUH under the National University Health System (NUHS).

Associate Professor Chan Shiao-Yng, another leading investigator on this study and a Consultant at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at NUH and Adjunct Investigator at A*STAR’s Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences (SICS) said, “It is truly an exciting prospect if this innovative supplement taken by women could improve glucose metabolism in pregnancy and lead to the “programming” of better metabolic health in the next generation. It could significantly lessen the rising trend of diabetes in our nation.”

The study has enrolled over 400 women in Singapore and more than 1,000 internationally. This study will continue recruiting in NUH in Singapore until the target of 600 women is reached in Singapore. Interested parties wishing to know more about this study can visit or contact the research team at 1800-7-647737 or email


For more information, please contact:
Ms Crystal MK
Manager, Group Communications
National University Health System
Tel: 6772 3968

Ms Sunanthar Lu
Senior Officer, Corporate Communications
Agency for Science, Technology and Research
Tel: 6517 1966

About NiPPeR
NiPPeR (or Nutritional Intervention Preconception and during Pregnancy to maintain healthy glucosE levels and offspRing health) is a unique international study, being the largest nutritional intervention study designed to help maintain healthy blood sugar levels in pregnancy and investigate impact on infant health. It is led by researchers from the highly successful birth cohort study, GUSTO (Growing Up in Singapore Towards healthy Outcomes) [3].

The NiPPeR study, which began in July 2015, is a collaboration between researchers in the EpiGen Global Research Consortium from the National University of Singapore, the National University Health System, Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (Singapore), the Liggins Institute at the University of Auckland and the Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, (UK), the University of Southampton (UK). EpiGen strives to advance understanding of the developmental and environmental processes that influence health through the lifecourse. Its partnership with the Nestlé Research Centre in this trial hails one of the largest public-private partnerships of its kind

For more information on NiPPeR, visit

About National University Health System (NUHS)
National University Health System (NUHS) is an integrated academic regional health system in Singapore that delivers value-driven, innovative and sustainable healthcare.

Grouping National University Hospital (NUH), National University Cancer Institute, Singapore (NCIS), National University Heart Centre, Singapore (NUHCS), National University Centre for Oral Health (NUCOHS), National University of Singapore (NUS) Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, NUS Faculty of Dentistry and NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health under a common governance structure, NUHS creates synergies for the advancement of health by integrating patient care, health science education and biomedical research.

NUHS also works closely with health and social care partners in the public, private and people sectors to develop and implement programmes that contribute to a healthy and engaged Singapore population.

For more information on NUHS, visit

About the Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences (SICS)
Established in 2007, the Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences (SICS) is a research institute within the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), and its mission is to do needs driven, impact-focused research to promote the health and human capacity of Singapore.

SICS is distinguished by its focus on clinical sciences and the use of innovative approaches and technologies that enable the efficient and effective study of human health and diseases. The clinician scientists in SICS conduct the full spectrum of “bench to bedside” research activities in:
• Metabolic diseases (including diabetes, obesity and insulin resistance)
• Pathways to normal growth and development (including neurocognitive and behavioural development) via birth cohort studies e.g. GUSTO & S-PRESTO
• Nutritional sciences (including functional foods, body composition, carbohydrate / fat / protein metabolism and aspects of food intake, energy regulation, human growth and development, satiety regulation, sensory and taste perception, and nutritional psychology)
• Biology of human ageing.

The institute aims to attract, train and nurture clinician-scientists and to develop joint programmes with universities, academic medical centres, government hospitals and research institutes.

For more information on SICS, please visit

About the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)
The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) is Singapore's lead public sector agency that spearheads economic oriented research to advance scientific discovery and develop innovative technology. Through open innovation, we collaborate with our partners in both the public and private sectors to benefit society.

As a Science and Technology Organisation, A*STAR bridges the gap between academia and industry. Our research creates economic growth and jobs for Singapore, and enhances lives by contributing to societal benefits such as improving outcomes in healthcare, urban living, and sustainability.

We play a key role in nurturing and developing a diversity of talent and leaders in our Agency and Research Institutes, the wider research community and industry. A*STAR oversees 18 biomedical sciences and physical sciences and engineering research entities primarily located in Biopolis and Fusionopolis.

For more information on A*STAR, please visit

About EpiGen
EpiGen is a global research consortium of leading investigators based at five centres in three countries (Liggins Institute, The University of Auckland, New Zealand, represented in the consortium by Auckland UniServices Ltd; Human Development and Health Academic Unit, and the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom; Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences (SICS) of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), and National University of Singapore (NUS)). This collaboration includes the National University Health System (NUHS).

For more information on EpiGen, please visit

- ASIA TODAY News Global Distribution