New York, Oct 2 (IANS) Infant formula and the early introduction of fizzy drinks raise the risk of higher levels of body fat early in childhood, according to a research.
On the contrary, babies who were breastfed for at least six months or longer had a lower percentage of body fat by age nine compared to those who did not receive breast milk for six months (a group that includes children who were never breastfed or received breast milk for less than six months).
Children who were not given soda before 18 months also had a lower fat mass at the age of nine, revealed the study led by a team from the University of Colorado-Anschutz Medical Campus, in the US.
The finding, presented at the ongoing Annual Meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) in Hamburg, Germany, supports the theory that the way a child is fed in infancy may be linked to their susceptibility to obesity later in life.
“Infant feeding patterns, especially shorter breastfeeding duration, early soda introduction and their joint effect, may influence body fat levels later in childhood,” said lead researcher Catherine Cohen, from the varsity.
The study “also supports the potential importance of delaying a child’s introduction to soda — an energy-dense beverage with no nutritional value during this vulnerable life stage”, she said.
The team analysed data on over 700 mother-child pairs.
The mothers had an average age of 29 years at recruitment, 51 per cent of the infants were boys.
The researchers then grouped the infants according to the duration of breastfeeding (six months or more vs. less than six months); age at which their baby was introduced to complementary foods (at or before four months or five months and over); age at which they were introduced to soda (18 months or more vs. less than 18 months).
They found that infants who were breastfed for less than six months had 3.5 per cent more body fat, on average, at age nine, than those who were breastfed for six months or more.
The analysis also found that infants who were introduced to soda before age 18 months had about 7.8 per cent more body fat, on average, at age nine, than those who first tried soda at 18 months or older.
“While this study cannot elucidate the potential mechanisms at play, previous research suggests that the link between breastfeeding and obesity risk may be related to differences in the nutrient composition of human milk versus infant formula,” Cohen said.
“Differences in appetite regulation and the impact of the human milk on the infant’s microbiome are also being investigated as potential biological effects,” she added.