Study finds link between starting solid food early, childhood obesity
Childhood obesity is among the fastest growing public health concerns in the United States, and results of a new study indicate that actions taken within the first 6 months of life may be one of the root causes. The research indicates that infants who were fed solid food before reaching the age of 4 months were significantly more likely to be obese by the time they were 3 years old.
The study, which was published in the journal Pediatrics, was conducted by scientists at Children's Hospital Boston and focused on the feeding habits of 847 children, Reuters Health reports.
The researchers followed the subjects until they were 3, at which point 9 percent of the children were obese. What they found was that breastfed babies who had solid food introduced to them before reaching the age of 4 months were at a much higher risk for obesity than those who were breastfed for longer.
According to the researchers, parents are typically eager to feed their children solid food, especially if they feel he or she is hungry or if they are already bigger. Additionally, some experts believe that some parents add cereal to formula because they think it will make their child healthier, which only serves to add extra calories.
"I think that's what a lot of people are doing unknowingly, thinking that the baby will be healthier or grow faster," pediatrician Dr. David McCormick told the news source. "That's exactly how [adults] get overweight. They eat a little bit more than they should every day."
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the rate of childhood obesity in the U.S. has nearly tripled in the last 30 years, and obese youth are significantly more likely to develop at least one cardiovascular disease.