Breastfeeding can reduce the risk of childhood obesity by as much as 25 percent
10/18/2019 // Vicki Batts // Views

Good nutrition is essential for kids to grow up strong and healthy -- even right out of the womb. In the past, breastfeeding was seen as "taboo" and "inferior" to formula feeding, but today we know better. This may sound shocking but breast milk is the perfect food for babies by design, and it turns out Mother Nature does a better job of making it than laboratories. In fact, human breast milk has a vast array of health benefits, many of which scientists are still uncovering and learning more about.

Recently, researchers from the National Institute of Health in Portugal found that formula-fed babies are more likely to be obese as children -- and that breastfeeding can reduce the risk of childhood obesity by as much as 25 percent.

Battle obesity with breast milk

Childhood obesity is a growing problem. International research suggests that one out of every six infants is obese by the time they reach elementary school.

In the United States alone, the CDC estimates that some 13.75 million children and adolescents are affected by obesity.

According to the CDC, one out every five kids in America is clinically obese. In children, obesity is defined as scoring a BMI (body mass index) at or above the 95th percentile on the CDC's gender-specific BMI-for-age charts.

Clearly, childhood obesity is a major problem -- but the solution to this health issue is a bit more difficult to ascertain. There are an assortment of things that can contribute to obesity, and just as many ways to reduce your risk.

Now, new research suggests that parents can help reduce their kids' risk of childhood obesity simply by offering breast milk to them as babies.


The study, led by NIH Portugal, analyzed data from over 100,000 6-to-9 year-old children who took part in the WHO Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative --which included 22 European countries. What they found was that kids who were given breast milk as infants had a much lower chance of being obese in primary school.

Amazingly, the health benefits of breast milk remained strong, even when the kids were also partially fed with formula.

The scientists say that breast milk-only babies had the highest reduction in risk, slashing their chances of obesity in childhood by 25 percent. For breast-and-formula fed babies, the risk of childhood obesity was cut by 22 percent.

For children who were never breastfed, the risk of childhood obesity went up by 22 percent.

Fed is best

While breastfeeding has obvious health benefits for babies, this study highlights the fact that using both breast milk and formula is a great option for moms. Breast milk is an extremely nutritious food for babies, but ultimately, ensuring baby is adequately fed is what is most important. For many moms, this means utilizing formula to fill in any gaps.

According to the data, babies who are fed with both formula and breast milk are still able to reap the amazing health benefits of breast milk.

That said, many health organizations suggest breastfeeding babies for at least six months (barring any health concerns). According to Daily Mail, experts believe that the cow's milk in formula may be a contributing factor to obesity. It's thought that the extra protein makes the babies grow faster, leading to more fat cells. Some theories also suggest that formula increases the infant's insulin levels more than breast milk, causing the baby to grow bigger fat cells, and more of them.

Even so, a future of obesity isn't written in stone. Just 16.8 percent of the kids who were never breastfed were obese in primary school, compared to 13.2 percent of the "sometimes breastfed" kids, and 9.3 percent of the breastfed-only babies. Breast milk has many important health benefits for babies, but there may also be a time and a place for formula -- and formula-fed babies can still be healthy, too.

Find out more health benefits of breast milk at

Sources for this article include:

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