Print Edition - 2019-05-02  |  Health and Living

Breastfeeding reduces child obesity risk

  • Maternal care

May 2, 2019-

Breastfeeding can cut the chances of a child becoming obese by up to 25 percent, according to a major study involving 16 countries.

World Health Organisation (WHO) experts who led the Europe-wide research are calling for more help and encouragement to women to breastfeed, as well as curbs on the marketing of formula milk which, said senior author Dr João Breda, misled women into thinking breast was not necessarily better.

“We need to see more measures to encourage breastfeeding, like properly paid maternity leave,” said Breda from the WHO European Office for Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases.

“We need less inappropriate marketing of formula milk, which may lead some mothers to believe it is as good for babies as breast milk.”

The research found more than 77 percent of children across Europe were breastfed, but rates varied widely. In Ireland, 46 percent of mothers had never breastfed and in France, that was nearly 34 percent. WHO recommends that women should exclusively breastfeed for six months, if they can.

The data came from nearly 30,000 children monitored as part of the WHO Childhood Obesity Surveillance initiative (Cosi). Launched in 2007, Cosi is continuously being updated and now receives data from about 40 countries on children aged six to nine, which measures children in school at around aged four and 11.

WHO’s paper, presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Glasgow and published in the journal Obesity Facts, says there are a number of reasons breastfeeding would protect children from obesity. Exclusive breastfeeding delays the introduction of solid food, which may be high in energy. There is also some evidence that babies fed formula have higher insulin levels in their blood which can stimulate fat deposition.

Published: 02-05-2019 11:30

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