Breastfed Children less likely to become obese.





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Obesity refers to having a specifically high amount of body fat, which is different from being overweight. Overweight is an excess of weight over the normal standard, although people who are overweight can also be obese. These weight issues have become a major problem in the United States. 97.1 million Americans (54.9% of the population) over the age of 20 are overweight, and 39.8 million (23.3%) are obese.1 Obesity is a gateway for serious illnesses. These can include diabetes, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, osteoporosis, and breathing problems. Individuals may be predisposed to obesity through genetics, but that does not mean that they are destined to a lifetime of this condition. Other factors that can contribute to obesity are lifestyle choices such as a high fat diet, lack of exercise, depression, and certain drugs.

Obesity is measured by the Body Mass Index (BMI). This is a calculation based on a person's height and weight. To calculate BMI, an individual’s weight in kilograms is divided by their height in meters squared. The National Institute of Health identifies obesity as a BMI of 30 kg/m2. A study found that children ranking in the 95th percentile of BMI has doubled in the last two decades2 with more children each year becoming obese.

Recently, a group of researchers decided to look at breast-feeding and its relationship with obesity. This study was conducted at the Harvard Medical School in Boston Massachusetts. A survey was sent to 8,186 girls and 7,155 boys ages 9 through 14, and a second survey to the mothers of these children. The survey found that 62% were mostly breast-fed in the first 6 months of their life, and 31% were mostly infant formula fed. 48% were breast-fed for more than 7 months and 31% were breast-fed for less than 3 months. At ages 9-14, 5% of girls and 9% of boys were overweight. Among those all or mostly breast-fed 4% of girls and 7% of the boys were overweight, compared to those who were either all or mostly formula fed; 6% girls and 11% boys. Those who were breast-fed for longer than 7 months, 4 % of girls and 7% of boys were overweight, compared to those breast-fed less than 3, for girls 6% and boys 12%. The researchers adjusted for age, sex, energy levels and mother’s BMI, among other things. They concluded, “Infants who were fed breast milk more than infant formula, or who were breastfed for longer periods, had a lower risk of being overweight during older childhood and adolescence.”3


1. National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases, National Institute of Health. Statistics related to Overweight and Obesity. Update June 2000.
2. Styne DM. Childhood and adolescent obesity. Prevalence and significance. Pediatr Clin North Am. Aug 2001; 48(4): 823-54.
3. Gillman MW. Risk of overweight among adolescents who were breastfed as infants. JAMA. 16 May 2001; 285(19): 2461-7.