Childhood Obesity is a serious Public Health concern. It has both short-term and long-term effects on health and both physical and mental well-being.
Risk factors of Child hood obesity are plenty
- Risk of asthma
- Cardio vascular diseases
- Obtrusive sleep apnea
- Poor bone health
- Poor body image
Genetic pre-disposition plays a role here. It’s a known fact that nutrition affects obesity. Obesity in the parents gets transferred in the genes. Lifestyle – the micro and the macro systems play their roles too. Breast milk plays a role in increasing the genetic predisposition
Pre pregnancy BMI-à Gestational weight gain à neonatal predisposition
Neonatal predisposition à suboptimal infant feeding à Infancy weight gain
Infancy weight gain à Early Childhood obesity
It’s biologically plausible to expect a link between breastfeeding and the risk of childhood obesity. Well researched articles have proven that breastfed babies have been found to have better insulin and leptin profiles and may have an increased capacity to self regulate energy intake compared to their formula fed counterparts. Breastfed infants have low insulin in the plasma. As insulin increases the deposit of fat, low insulin means low adipose tissue deposit. .
A recent systematic review with meta-analysis has been published which confirms, once again, that formula feeding is a risk factor for the development of obesity in childhood The researchers combined the results of 25 studies involving 226,508 participants aged from 1 to 16 years and conducted a statistical analysis as if it was one single study.
They found that the pooled adjusted odds ratio for all 25 studies was 0.78 (0.74, 0.81 95% CI), which means that, at a population level, children breastfed as babies were 22% less likely to be obese.
When the researchers looked at the effect of breastfeeding duration on the risk of developing obesity in childhood, they found that the longer babies were breastfed, the lower their risk of developing obesity. Children who were breastfed for more than 7 months showed a 21% decrease in the risk of childhood obesity which was significantly less than the 10% decrease in risk seen in children breastfed for less than 3 months
This vertical though has not been supported by much research. Very few observational studies have found the link between these two parameters.
A quasi-experimental prospective PROBIT trial, among other things, compared obesity outcomes among children born in baby-friendly hospitals vs non-baby friendly hospitals but didn’t corroborate this association during infancy and childhood. More intense research is needed in this critical area.
Though this topic is spoken about often, the parameters are not that straightforward to study and infer upon a result.
Lot of other factors have to be considered while looking into this funnel. These include
- Exclusivity and duration of breastfeeding
- Different types of complimentary foods introduced under 6 months
- Excessive weight gain during pregnancy
- Maternal preconception weight
Understanding how these context-specific factors may modify the relationship of interest is key to shed more light into the potential relationship between breastfeeding and the prevention of childhood obesity.
Though there are not much studies to prove the direct impact of breastfeeding on childhood obesity, evidence based studies have shown that breast milk provides the essential protective factors that can help prevent child hood obesity.
Breastfeeding helps. Exclusive Breastfeeding for 6 months takes the infant’s health on a road to better well -being . Awareness and knowledge on optimal maternal health and the best feeding habits paves way for a healthier generation.
- Rafael P’erez-Escamilla – Office of Public Health Practice, Yale School of Public Health , New Haven
- Yan, Liu, Zhu, Huang & Wang, 2014
- Australian Breastfeeding Association
About the Author: Rekha Sudarsan, is convinced in the joy of procreation and the science behind the triumph of destiny to pregnant women and new mothers. She is an expert in Maternity and Infant care and holds International Certifications in Child Birth education, HypnoBirthing, Prenatal and Postnatal Fitness specialisations and International Board Certified Lactation Certification. Also academically qualified in Nutrition and Psychology ,Rekha is one of the very few in India to have this unique combination. She is a Visiting consultant with Seethapathy group of Hospitals, Chennai and Rainbow Children’s Hospitals, Hyderabad, Vijayawada and Bangalore . Rekha is a Marathon runner and has 8 full marathons to her credit.