The Journal of Clinical Chiropractic Pediatrics (JCCP) published a review of studies in their November 2018 edition that shows that breastfeeding early in life reduces the possibility of childhood obesity. This paper reviewed previous studies on breastfeeding as it related to early obesity in children.
This study was conducted at AECC University College, Bournemouth, in the United Kingdom. The statistics of obesity in this study were from the European union, but similar, and in many cases worse statistics are true in the United States. The issues are therefore comparable on both continents and should be addressed equally on both sides of the ocean.
The study begins by noting that obesity in the European Union (EU) is increasing. Notably, England and Poland have demonstrated the steepest increases in obesity. It is estimated that each year 400,000 children across Europe are becoming overweight or obese. Evidence shows that overweight children generally become overweight adults. This then puts them at higher risks of all the health issues that arise from obesity as well as a higher risk of death from the issues related to obesity. It is estimated that in the EU around 2.8 million deaths per year result from obesity associated diseases.
The study authors point out that proper diet and exercise can correct obesity, but they concede that the implementation of this lifestyle is many times easier said than done. They also note that there is a correlation between the tendency to become an overweight child and breastfeeding early in live. They state, “Several high-quality studies indicate that breastfed children have a lower risk of childhood obesity.” Unfortunately, the researchers point out that England has one of the lowest rates of breast feeding in Europe.
The study recommendations for breastfeeding say, “It is extensively acknowledged that infants should be nourished with nothing other than breastmilk for the first six months of life and that breastfeeding should continue with the addition of complementary foods for up to and beyond two years of age.” The researchers sought to find out if lower rates of both exclusive breastfeeding and combination of breastfeeding and formula feeding could affect the increase rate of obesity in children.
Using a calculation known as the body mass index (BMI) as a common way to determine obesity, the researchers looked at a large number of studies to determine how many fit the criteria and could add insight into breastfeeding rates and the effect on obesity. In their review, they determined that 25 studies with 226,508 subjects met their criteria. Data from these studies was then analyzed to draw conclusions.
The results of the analysis of all these studies showed that babies who were breastfed for seven months or longer were 22% less likely to be obese compared to who had never been breastfed. When the researchers compared those children who had at sometime been breastfed to those that had never been breastfed, the results still showed a 15% reduction in obesity for those babies who had some breastfeeding as compared to those who had never been breastfed at all.
In their discussion the authors state that, “The answer to the research question is that breastfeeding appears to reduce the risk for childhood obesity, at least to some extent.” They continued in the study conclusion by saying, “Research suggests that early breastfeeding is protective against childhood obesity.”