March 13, 2012

Breastfeeding protects against obesity in later childhood and adolescence

Breastfeeding for 6 or more months has been shown to be protective against overweight and obesity at ages 9 years to 16 years.

The study's aim was to look at the relationship between breastfeeding and weight. Data from the 2007 Australian National Children's Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey was used. The records of 2066 girls and boys aged 9 years to 16 years were used in the analysis.

Compared to those that had never been breastfed, those breastfed for 6 months or longer were 36% less likely to be overweight and 49% less likely to be obese in later childhood and adolescence  even after adjusting for maternal and child characteristics, ethnicity, physical activity patterns, screen time and sleep time.

Possible reasons for this include:-

  • an unknown factor
  • breastfed infants compared to bottle fed infants maintain their ability to recognise when they are full and eat according to appetite
  • breast milk composition which results in lower concentrations of insulin, the hormone that promotes fat storage

The study highlights the importance of breastfeeding for 6 months or more.

Reference:

Scott JA, Ng SY, Cobiac L. The relationship between breastfeeding and weight status in a national sample of Australian children and adolescents. BMC Public Health 2012;12:107

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