• Breastfeeding May Decrease the Risk of Childhood Obesity

    The rate of children who have obesity has more than doubled in the past 30 years.

    In addition to increasing health problems in childhood, children who are overweight are also more likely to be overweight as adults. This can carry an increased risk of high blood pressure and cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, asthma, sleep apnea, and depression.

    Researchers from China wanted to examine the association between breastfeeding and the risk of childhood obesity. The study, published in BMC Public Health, found that breastfeeding is associated with a significantly reduced risk of obesity in children.

    25 studies of 226,508 children in 12 countries

    The systematic review included 25 observational studies that evaluated the association between breastfeeding and childhood obesity in 226,508 children. The included studies had been completed in 12 different countries in Europe, Asia, and North America.

    This review found that children who had any amount of breastfeeding had a 22% lower risk of childhood obesity than children who had never been breastfed.

    Study findings

    The risk of childhood obesity decreased as the amount of time breastfeeding increased:

    • Children who were breastfed for less than 3 months were only 10% less likely to have childhood obesity than children who did not breastfeed at all.
    • Children who were breastfed the most (longer than 7 months) had the lowest risk of childhood obesity compared to all other children in the review.

    How does this affect you?

    Higher study reliability

    A systematic review is considered a highly reliable form of research because it combines large pools of data. The higher the number of participants the more reliable the results are.

    Outcomes and connections

    However, the review is only as reliable as the studies that make it up. This systematic review included observational studies. These studies examine an intervention in a naturally occurring environment.

    Researchers do not intervene but simply assess outcomes and try to account for factors that may influence the outcome. These types of trials can not determine cause and effect but suggest a possible connection.

    Nutrient balance and eating habits

    Breastmilk can provide a better balance of nutrients than formula which may influence the child's eating habits in infancy and through childhood. Most organizations recommend babies be exclusively breastfed for about the first 6 months of life, then continue to breastfeed for a year as long as is mutually desired by the mother and baby.

    However, breastfeeding may not be possible for all babies or mothers. Talk to your doctor about nutrition choices for your baby and child. Regular checkups with the doctor will help make sure your child is growing as expected and getting proper nutrition.

    Have questions about breastfeeding?

    Learn about Wellmont's breastfeeding services here.

    Or speak with a nurse any time, 24/7, at 877-230-NURSE (877‑230‑6877).


    RESOURCES

    American Academy of Pediatrics – www.healthychildren.org

    Family Doctor – American Academy of Family Physicians – www.familydoctor.org

    References

    Breastfeeding FAQs. American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: http://www2.aap.org/breastfeeding/faqsbreastfeeding.html. Accessed February 17, 2015.

    Yan J, Liu L, et al. The association between breastfeeding and childhood obesity: a meta-analysis. BMC Public Health. 2014 Dec 13;14:1267. Available at: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2458/14/1267. Accessed February 17, 2015.

    Revision Information

    This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

    Copyright © 2012 EBSCO Publishing. All rights reserved.

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