Monday, February 7, 2011

Kids Who Start Solids Too Early More liable to Be Obese

Ideally, babies are exclusively breast-fed for the first six months of their lives. Then, solid food — really, a misnomer since “solids” consists to begin with of soupy rice or barley cereal — is introduced.

But a quarter of U.S. infants are introduced to solid foods before they hit four months.

Why parents disregard the advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the World Health Organization to hold off on solids until six months and what that means for these babies down the road is the subject of two new studies in the AAP journal Pediatrics.

One study, published Monday by researchers at Children's Hospital Boston and Harvard University, shows that introducing solids before a baby's 4-month birthday is linked to a six fold increase in that baby becoming obese by the time he is 3.

This was true for infants whose mothers never breast-fed them or weaned them before four months.

Researchers tracked 847 children — two-thirds of whom were breast-fed — and found that 75 kids, or 9%, were obese by the time they turned 3.

While formula-fed babies were six times as likely to be obese at age 3 if they began eating solid foods before four months, the point at which solid food was introduced mattered little for breast-fed babies. When they began eating solids was not associated with an increased risk of fatness.

What could account for the difference? Formula-fed infants may eat more than once solids are introduced whereas breast-fed babies are thought to do a better job of self-regulating their caloric eating. “The first few months after birth may be a critical window for the development of obesity,” write the authors


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