Feeding a baby an unhealthy diet could affect their food preferences later and even increase their risk for obesity. A new study points out that what you feed a baby while it’s developing could have far-reaching health implications that follow it into childhood or young adulthood.
Feeding a Baby Wisely Could Prevent Obesity Later
Researchers fed juvenile rats a high-protein diet, a high-fiber diet, or a normal diet until the age of 14 weeks. Then they switched the rats over to a diet high in sugar and fat. After changing them to the more energy-rich diet, the rats that had enjoyed a high-protein diet as youngsters gained more body fat and ate more calories than the mice raised on a high-fiber diet.
Why did this happen? The high-protein diet seemed to negatively affect hormones that break down fats and carbohydrates, whereas a high-fiber diet was somewhat protective against weight gain and obesity.
Feed a Baby Right from the Beginning
Although this study was carried out in rats, there’s still evidence that feeding a baby the right foods early in life has an impact on their risk of obesity and health problems later on. In fact, a study that looked at how a high-protein diet affected human babies came to a similar conclusion.
One human study found that feeding babies a high-protein diet at the age of one year, or between the ages of 18 to 24 months, put them at greater risk for being overweight at age 7. Researchers believe feeding babies a diet high in protein during these “critical periods” changes levels of hormones, including insulin and insulin-like growth factor that regulate growth and fat metabolism.
Breastfeeding a Baby Helps Too
Studies show that breastfeeding a baby protects against later obesity, although the reason for this isn’t clear. It, too, may alter insulin and other hormones in a baby that play a role in regulating body weight. Breastfeeding offers other health benefits for a baby too.
Feeding a Baby to Prevent Obesity: The Bottom Line?
It’s more and more evident that what a baby eats early in life can influence its risk of obesity during childhood. The best approach is to breastfeed and follow-up with a balanced, high-fiber diet that has moderate but not large amounts of protein. Based on the limited number of studies done so far, this would give a baby the best chance of avoiding childhood obesity.
Eurekalert.org. “Diet when young affects future food responses”
“Effect of Infant Feeding on the Risk of Obesity Across the Life Course: A Quantitative Review of Published Evidence”. Christopher G. Owen, PhD, Richard M. Martin, MFPHM, Peter H. Whincup, FFPHM, George Davey Smith, FFPHM and Derek G. Cook, PhD.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 86, No. 6, 1765-1772, December 2007