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Healthy weaning diet keeps kids slim

Breastfeeding duration and the kinds of foods a child eats after weaning play a role in body composition later on.

Healthy weaning diet keeps kids slim

Breastfeeding duration and the kinds of foods a child eats after weaning play a role in body composition later on.

There has been a considerable amount of study of breastfeeding duration and later obesity risk, but researchers rarely consider the fact that women who breastfed for longer may also choose different types of foods when starting a child on a solid diet.

To investigate the role of weaning diet, and whether it had an influence on children's body composition independent of breastfeeding, the researchers compared data on feeding at 6 and 12 months to lean and fat mass at 4 years of age in 536 children. They used a technique called dual X-ray absorptiometry, or DEXA, to evaluate the children's body composition.

The researchers divided the children into four groups based on how closely their weaning diet adhered to infant guidelines; those in the bottom fourth ate the most commercially prepared baby food and the least fruit, vegetables and home-prepared food. For example, half of the children in the top fourth ate at least 13 portions of fruit each week and 15 portions of vegetables, compared to 3 portions of fruit and 5 of vegetables for the children in the bottom fourth.

Half the children were breastfed for 15 weeks or less, while the average age at which they began eating solid foods was 17.4 weeks. Children who were breast fed for at least 1 year had 9.9 pounds of fat mass, compared to 11.0 pounds for those who were never breastfed. Breastfeeding duration didn't affect body mass index (BMI) or lean mass. The 87 children who were overweight or obese were breastfed for an average of about 9 weeks, compared with about 17 weeks for normal-weight children.

Average lean mass for the children in the top fourth based on weaning diet quality was 28 pounds, compared to 26 pounds for children in the lowest fourth. Weaning diet didn't influence fat mass or BMI.

The study found that children who are breastfed for at least a year had less body fat than their peers who were never breastfed, while kids with the highest-quality early diets - meaning plenty of fruit, vegetables and home-made food like cooked meats, rice and pasta - had more lean mass. The effects of breastfeeding duration and weaning diet quality were independent of one another.
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