Infant Feeding And Obesity

A recent study of 15,000 children aged 9-14 years found that in those who had been only or mostly fed breast milk, the odds ratio for being overweight was 0.78 (95% CI 0.66-0.91) compared with children who had been only or mostly fed infant formula (31). This apparent protective effect of breastfeeding against obesity persisted after adjustment for energy intake, physical activity, mother's body mass index, and other variables. The same association has not been found consistently in younger children, and there may be a latent period during childhood before it is manifest. A mechanistic explanation of the association is that breastfed babies have greater control of their intake than bottle-fed babies, and therefore develop better self-regulatory mechanisms. Another possibility is that hormones and growth factors in breast milk permanently change the baby's metabolism. There is no specific evidence for this, but breastfeeding has been shown to be associated with lower levels of cardiovascular risk factors including lower low-density lipoprotein concentrations (32). It seems likely that associations between breastfeeding and later adiposity will prove to be complex.

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