Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Breastfeeding Could Protect Babies From Obesity, WHO Study Finds

Health + Wellness
Breastfeeding Could Protect Babies From Obesity, WHO Study Finds
tatyana_tomsickova / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Breastfeeding may reduce the likelihood of child obesity, new research from the World Health Organization has found.


According to the study, led by WHO/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.

Published in Obesity Facts and presented at this year's European Congress on Obesity, the study looked at the data of nearly 30,000 children from 22 countries in the Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative and specifically at breastfeeding rates for 16 European countries, The Guardian reported.

The study indicates that breastfeeding has a "protective effect" against obesity, which strengthens the longer a child is breastfed. For instance, children who were breastfed for at least six months, even if they were also bottle-fed formula, still had a 22 percent reduced risk of obesity. That said, there appears to be a minimum threshold before breastfeeding becomes beneficial: children who were breastfed for less than six months were 12 percent more at risk of becoming obese.

The researchers suggest this could be because protein-heavy formula derived from cows' milk can lead to higher blood insulin levels and stimulate fat cell growth, Yahoo reported, 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.

Previous research into the benefits of breastfeeding has run the gamut, showing that exclusive breastfeeding as an infant can lead to healthier cholesterol levels in teen years while also not revealing any protective effects against obesity or diabetes.

Senior author of the WHO study, Dr. Joao Breda of the WHO European Office for Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases, acknowledged that other factors like healthier lifestyles of families that breastfeed could play a role, but stood by the results.

"The evidence is there. The benefit is outstanding so we should be telling people," he told The Guardian.

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. The organization has set a goal to increase the prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months to 50 percent by 2025.

In most of the countries studied, more than 77 percent of children were breastfed. On the other end of the spectrum, 46 percent of children in Ireland, 38 percent in France and 35 percent in Malta were never breastfed, and only four countries had a 25 percent or higher prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding.

The researchers believe that the areas in Europe falling short of the WHO's recommendations are doing so because of misleading marketing of formula milk, poor maternity leave options and a lack of promotion.

"The promotion of breastfeeding presents a window of opportunity for obesity prevention policy to respond to the problem of childhood obesity in the European Region," said Breda in a WHO announcement.

Scrap metal is loaded into a shredder at a metal recycling facility on July 17, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. Scott Olson / Getty Images

Hunger strikers in Chicago are fighting the relocation of a metal shredding facility from a white North Side neighborhood to a predominantly Black and Latinx community on the Southeast Side already plagued by numerous polluting industries.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A new UK study links eating meat with increased risks for heart disease, diabetes and more. nata_zhekova / Getty Images

The World Health Organization has determined that red meat probably causes colorectal cancer in humans and that processed meat is carcinogenic to humans. But are there other health risks of meat consumption?

Read More Show Less

Trending

A common cuttlefish like this can pass the "marshmallow test." Hans Hillewaert / CC BY-SA 4.0

Cuttlefish, marine invertebrates related to squids and octopuses, can pass the so-called "marshmallow test," an experiment designed to test whether human children have the self-control to wait for a better reward.

Read More Show Less
Yogyakarta Bird Market, Central Java, Indonesia. Jorge Franganillo / CC BY 2.0

By John R. Platt

The straw-headed bulbul doesn't look like much.

It's less than a foot in length, with subdued brown-and-gold plumage, a black beak and beady red eyes. If you saw one sitting on a branch in front of you, you might not give it a second glance.

Read More Show Less
Red Knots are among the shorebirds that a scientific study is tracking. BrianEKushner / Getty Images

By Julián García Walther

One morning in January, I found myself 30 feet up a tall metal pole, carrying 66 pounds of aluminum antennas and thick weatherproofed cabling. From this vantage point, I could clearly see the entire Punta Banda Estuary in northwestern Mexico. As I looked through my binoculars, I observed the estuary's sandy bar and extensive mudflats packed with thousands of migratory shorebirds frenetically pecking the mud for food.

Read More Show Less