Study: Breastfeeding May Prevent Obesity

A new study suggests that breastfeeding may prevent obesity.

A new study suggests that breastfeeding may result in lower rates of obesity.

By Swahili Scientists

Breastfeeding may reduce the likelihood of child obesity, according to new research from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Based upon a study that was led by WHO in Europe and the National Institute of Health in Portugal, infants who are never breastfed are 22 percent more likely to end up obese, while those who are exclusively breastfed for at least six months are 25 percent less likely to be obese.

This study, which was published in “Obesity Facts” and presented at this year’s European Congress on Obesity, obtained data from approximately 30,000 children in 22 countries in connection with the Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative, according to the Guardian.

The study indicates that breastfeeding has a “protective effect” against obesity, which increases the longer a child is breastfed. To illustrate this point, children who were breastfed for at least six months (even children who were also fed formula) still had a 22 percent reduced risk of obesity. Therefore, there appears to be a minimum threshold before breastfeeding becomes beneficial, given that children who were breastfed for less than six months were 12 percent more at risk of becoming obese.

However, the babies that had the lowest risk of obesity in the study were those that only received breast milk directly from the breast for the first three months of life, according to “Harvard Health.”

The researchers suggested that this happens because protein-heavy formula, which comes from cows’ milk, can lead to higher blood insulin levels and stimulate fat cell growth, while breast milk contains hormones that will regulate energy balance throughout life. The researchers also note that breastfeeding could delay the introduction of energy-dense solid foods into a baby’s diet, the Guardian reported.

Therefore, the WHO recommends that mothers should breastfeed exclusively for their baby’s first six months before combining breast milk with complementary foods until they are at least two years old. Additionally, WHO set a goal to increase the prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months to 50 percent by 2025.

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