Background: The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region harbors significant proportions of stunting and wasting coupled to surging rates of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Recent evidence identified nutrition during the first 1,000 days of life as a common denominator not only for optimal growth and development but also for curbing the risk of NCDs later in life. Collaboration between Qatar and Lebanon was initiated to launch the first mother and child cohort study in the MENA region, examining the effect of maternal and young child nutrition and lifestyle characteristics on birth outcomes and growth patterns. The main outcome of this study is to develop evidence-based country-specific nutrition and lifestyle guidelines for pregnant women and young children to ensure optimal nutrition during the first 1,000 days of life. Methods/Design. This is a prospective three-year cohort study. Pregnant women (n=500) in their 1st trimester will be recruited from healthcare centers in Beirut, Lebanon and Doha, Qatar. Participants will be followed up three times during their pregnancy (once every trimester) and six times after delivery (when the child is 4, 6, 9, 12, 18 and 24 months old). In addition, delivery and birth data will be obtained from hospital records. Data collection will include maternal sociodemographic and lifestyle characteristics, dietary intake, anthropometric measurements, and household food security data. In addition, a blood sample will be obtained from the mother during her 1st trimester. Breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices, dietary intake, as well as the growth patterns of children will also be examined. The development of the nutrition and lifestyle guidelines will follow a multistep process using the Delphi technique. Discussion: The developed guidelines will help promote balanced nutrition and health during the first 1,000 days; constituting the foundation of effective interventions not only to ensure optimal growth and development but also to curb the epidemic of NCDs in the region. This study provides a unique opportunity for further follow up in light of the growing field of nutrition and disease risk.


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