Hive Health Media

Early Introduction of Solid Food Increases Obesity Risk

For many of us, we’d be surprised to think of obesity as an issue affecting not only adults and teenagers, but also infants and pre-school aged children.  In fact, obesity is not only prevalent in these younger age groups, but it’s also the leading public health issue facing children today.

Timing of solid food may play a role in your child’s risk of obesity according to the results of a study published in the journal, Pediatrics [1].  Researchers from the Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard medical school conducted a prospective pre-birth cohort study involving 847 children.  The primary outcome measured in this study was obesity at 3 years of age which for this population is defined as a body mass index above or equal to the 95th percentile.

Two groups of infants were formed on the basis of whether or not they were breastfed for at least four months or “formula-fed.”  At 3 years of age, 75 children totalling 9% were obese.  While introduction of solid foods in breastfed infants before four months was not associated with an increased risk of obesity, there was a significant increase in obesity in formula-fed infants who were introduced to solid food before four months.  Specifically, the researchers found a sixfold increase in the risk of obesity at 3 years.

If you’re wondering why introduction of solid food before four months did not have an impact on obesity risk in breastfed infants, the researchers speculated:

One possible reason why we saw an association among formula-fed but not breastfed infants is that formula-fed infants may increase their energy intake when solids are introduced. Breastfeeding may promote self-regulation of an infant’s energy intake, and the mother may learn to recognize her infant’s hunger and satiety cues.

The researchers also noted that the World Health Organization recommends solid food introduction at six months to promote exclusive breastfeeding for six months.  In contrast, The American Academy of
Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition guidelines state that solid foods can be introduced between four to six months of age.

The bottom line from this research is that it provides further support for the catch-phrase, “breast is best.” For those infants who are formula-fed, the results of this study supports the current recommendations of delaying solid food for four months.

Reference:

  1. Huh SY, Rifas-Shiman SL, Taveras EM, Oken E, Gillman MW. Timing of Solid Food Introduction and Risk of Obesity in Preschool-Aged Children. Pediatrics. 2011 Feb 7. [Epub ahead of print]

2 Comments

  1. Nicholas Barrett

    March 17, 2011 at 3:19 am

    This is a really interesting topic. i mean its obvious that childhood and mental programming directly affect emotions growing up which can make eating habits more positive or negative, but this is a direct correlation between early food and obesity. Id like to know the specifics of why though…as in is it psychology, or an actual physical body mechanism…Any more info?

  2. Delena [email protected] Codes

    March 3, 2011 at 6:37 am

    The thing that really gets my goat about the “4-6 months” advice is that, if it’s seemingly okay to start solids at 4 months, then some parents might think, “Well, it’s 3 months now, so it’s only a month early. No harm in that!” when in reality that window is completely unwise.

    Maybe I’m a rabid “breast is best” fan. =) Then again, the breast is the only food that nature intended for babies; anything else is a man made product. Of course, I realize not everyone can breastfeed, but I also believe that we as a culture need to make it easier for mothers to have access to breastmilk and to give them more support!

    Delena

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