The World Health Organisation (WHO) experts have found evidence that exclusive breastfeeding could cut chances of childhood obesity by 25 percent.
The findings, published in the journal Obesity Facts, came from nearly 30,000 children monitored for the WHO’s childhood obesity surveillance initiative in 16 European countries.
The researchers expressed concerns that the relentless marketing of formula milk has misled women into thinking that breastfeeding was not necessarily better.
The study drew data from children and found that only 77 percent of them across Europe were breastfed, although rates varied with the un-breastfed ones accounting for 46 and 34 percent in Ireland and France respectively.
It also showed that 81 percent of mothers in the UK begin to breastfeed at birth but, by six weeks, the figure falls to 24 percent in England, 17 percent in Wales and 13 percent in Northern Ireland.
In consequence, 16.8 percent of the un-breastfed children ended up obese in comparison to the 13.2 percent who had been breastfed at some time and 9.3 percent of those breastfed for six months or more.
The un-breastfed children also reported a 22 percent higher likelihood of being obese and those breastfed for less than six months reported 12 percent, unlike others breastfed for a space of six months.
“We need to see more measures to encourage breastfeeding, We need less inappropriate marketing of formula milk which may lead mothers into believing it is as good for babies as breast milk.,” said João Breda, senior author and doctor from the WHO European office for prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases.
Coupled with previous evidence that babies fed formula have higher insulin levels in their blood which can stimulate fat deposition, the WHO researchers added that exclusive breastfeeding delays the introduction of solid food, something that could stave off childhood obesity.
“Breastfeeding has a really strong protective effect. The evidence is there. The benefit is outstanding so we should be telling people,” added Kate Brinkworth of the Royal College of Midwives.
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