Over-feeding in infancy might set the stage for childhood obesity

The way obese women feed and interact with their children early in infancy might lay the foundations for obesity later in childhood. A small pilot study published this month in Nutrition Journal found that obese women fed their children more energy- rich food, and spent less time feeding and interacting with them than normal weight women.

Infancy may be one of the critical periods for the development of childhood obesity. The role of parents, especially mothers, in controlling the diet and energy intake of their children during early childhood to prevent obesity later in life is crucial.

Russell Rising and Fima Lifshitz of EMTAC Inc. observed 4 obese and 3 normal weight women and their 4 to 5 month old babies, over a period of 24 hours. The mothers were left to interact with their babies and feed them as they would normally, using their normal milk formula and complementary solid food if they wished to.

Their results show that 3 out of the 4 obese mothers fed their babies an average of 19.7 kcal per body weight more than normal weight mothers. The children of the obese mothers consumed more energy as carbohydrates, provided mainly by complementary food, whereas their energy intake from protein and fat was the same as that of other children. The obese mothers also spent less time feeding their children, and less time playing or interacting with them: over 24 hours the obese mothers spent 381 minutes interacting with their children while normal weight mothers spent 570 minutes. As a result, children of obese mothers spent more time sleeping.

"Though there were a small number of infants studied the results suggest that differences do exist on how mothers interact with their infants, depending on their body composition" write the authors, "it is possible that the differences detected among biological obese mothers and their infants could affect the body composition of their infant as they age." They conclude, "excess energy consumption

Contact: Juliette Savin
BioMed Central

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