Babies fed with enriched formula milk are more likely to encounter health problems linked to obesity in later life.
According to a new study, babies fed on enriched bottle milk are more likely to be overweight by the age of five than those who are fed on breast milk.
The research, conducted at the MRC Childhood Nutrition Research Centre at University College London, suggests faster weight gain in infancy can programme the body for later life, putting the infant at risk of health problems from heart disease to diabetes.
Professor Atul Singhal, from University College London said: ‘This study supports the case in the general population for breastfeeding since it is harder to overfeed a breastfed baby.’
The study found that healthy babies given formula milk, enriched with vitamins, protein and other nutrients had between 22% and 38% more body fat at five to eight years old than those fed standard bottle milk.
The findings support previous research published online in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which suggests 20% of adult obesity may be caused by over-nutrition in infancy.
The UK has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in Europe, with a shocking one in three mothers never attempting to breastfeed their babies.
By four months old, 75% of babies in Britain are given formula milk rather than breast milk.
Janet Fyle of the Royal College of Midwives said: ‘The UK needs to see breastfeeding as a normal process, and to move away from some of the outdated and negative stigma that is depressingly still attached to it.’
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