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Breastfeeding May Not Reduce Risk of Later Obesity in Children

Recent study finds breastfeeding does not lower risk of obesity….

When researchers compared a large group of women who breastfed their children considerably longer than another large group of women, they found little difference between the children’s weights 11 years later.

The body mass index and various other measures of obesity were approximately the same in the children of both groups of mothers.

The study, led by Richard M. Martin, PhD, of the School of Social and Community Medicine at the University of Bristol in England, aimed to find out whether the length of time a child is breastfed has any apparent effect on the child’s obesity risk.

The researchers included 17,046 mothers and their children in the study. The clinics were randomly assigned to provide the women either with usual care (15 clinics) or to provide an intervention that heavily promoted breastfeeding for the mothers.

The researchers were able to follow up with 81 percent of the women over a decade later, when their children were an average age of 11.5 years old.

Six percent of the women at the usual care clinics exclusively breastfed their babies until the children were 3 months old, compared to 43 percent of the women at the clinics promoting breastfeeding.

When the researchers followed up with the women’s children nearly 12 years later, the researchers found the differences between the groups in BMI, fat percentage, skinfold thickness and waist circumference were extremely tiny. Calculations revealed that the differences were so small that they could have been due to chance.

The researchers concluded the intervention did help improve how long the women chose to breastfeed their babies exclusively. However, the strong promotion of breastfeeding did not appear to affect whether the children were overweight a decade later.

JAMA, March 12, 2013