Early solid food introduction may cause obesity

The findings of a new study published this week in Paediatrics show a convincing relationship between infant obesity and the introduction of solid foods before the age of four months.  The same study also indicates that infants who are breastfed and those raised on formula have distinctly different propensities for obesity.

Researchers based their conclusions on data from 847 children whose mothers were enrolled at obstetrical offices in the area around Boston Children’s Hospital.  The women responded to questionnaires during pregnancy and after giving birth, as well as in at-home interviews, to provide information on socioeconomic factors as well as how they fed their babies in the first few months after birth.

The study’s goal was to evaluate the relationship between the age when solid food was first introduced into an infant’s diet and the incidence of obesity by the age of three years.  From the evidence gathered in the course of the study, Dr. Susanna Huh, co-author of the report, and her colleagues at Children’s Hospital drew several conclusions.  The first was that babies who began eating solid food before they were four months old ran a six times greater risk of obesity by the age of three years.

The other significant conclusion was that babies who were breastfed for at least four months were at much lower risk of obesity than those on formula during the same time period.  This supports recommendations from the World Health Organization that   mothers should breastfeed babies for six months if they have the option.  Many infants do require formula, for a variety of reasons, but if they are also fed solid food earlier than four months of age, the risk of obesity by the age of three years is considerably higher.

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