Breast-fed babies less likely to be overweight children, teens

ere overweight compared to the 6 percent of the girls and 11 percent of the boys fed mostly infant formula. Among those who were breast fed for seven months or more, about 4 percent of the girls and 7 percent of the boys were overweight compared to about 6 percent of girls and 12 percent of boys who drank breast milk for three months or less.

The researchers statistically adjusted the results for age, gender, sexual maturity, total calorie intake, physical activity, time watching television, mothers body mass index, and other social, economic and lifestyle factors known to influence weight. In this study, breast-feeding includes women who fed infants breast milk extracted from breast pumps.

The adjusted figures show that infants who were breast-fed more than formula fed or who were breast-fed for longer periods had approximately 20 percent lower risk of being overweight in the preteen and teen years.

The results make biological sense, Gillman says. Breast-feeding could protect against later obesity by providing infants more control over when and how much they consumewhen theyre full instead of when a bottle is empty, for examplewhich could shape future eating behavior. Also, breast milk itself might provide early "metabolic programming," leading to less fat accumulation, for example. Gillman would like to see further studies among more representative samples of the U.S. population.

"Breast milk is already acknowledged as the best food for infants," says William Dietz, division of nutrition and physical activity, Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, in an accompanying editorial. "The increased initiation and duration of breastfeeding may also provide a low-cost, readily available strategy to help prevent childhood and adolescent obesity."


Contact: John Lacey
Harvard Medical School

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