Breastfed Children Less Likely to Become Obese
The Walt Disney Company’s announcement that its child-oriented television channels and websites will reject ads for unhealthy foods has been widely welcomed. But a new study from Ireland suggests there’s something mothers can do long before their kids reach cartoon-watching age to decrease the kids’ odds of becoming obese.
Breastfeed them. And do so for at least six months.
This recommendation isn’t radically new: A 2004 review of nine studies concluded that breastfeeding “reduced the risk of obesity in childhood significantly.” But the Irish study, recently published in the journal Social Science and Medicine, provides what is arguably the strongest evidence yet of its effectiveness.
Using a large and representative sample of 8,568 Irish children—one-seventh of all the kids born in that nation between 1997 and 1998—it finds extended breast feeding can cut the risk of childhood obesity in half.
“Breastfeeding for between 13 and 25 weeks was associated with a 38 percent reduction in the risk of obesity at 9 years of age,” report Cathal McCrory and Richard Layte of Dublin’s Economic and Social Research Institute. “Being breastfed in excess of 26 weeks was associated with a 51 percent reduction in risk of obesity.”