Researchers at Harvard Medical School say the prevalence of overweight children jumped from 6.3 per cent in 1980 to 10 per cent in 2001.
Researchers collected data from the visits of more than 120,000 children under the age of six between 1980 and 2001. All of the children were from Massachusetts and enrolled in a health maintenance organization, which provided medical records containing demographic and growth information.
The biggest increase was found in infants birth – 6months. Over the course of the study, the number of overweight infants increased by 74 per cent. Infants also experienced a 59 per cent jump in the risk of becoming overweight, the biggest increase in any age group.
Although it is known that obesity in children is on the rise, Stephanie Atkinson, a pediatrics research scientist at McMaster University, feels the study might not hold true for Canadian babies.
“The reason I’d be cautious about extrapolating that information here is that we have a lot higher rate of breast feeding in Canada than the U.S. has been able to achieve”, said Dr. Atkinson. “Babies that are breastfed regulate their intake on their own, while babies on formula eat more. Parents kind of encourage them to finish every last drop. So formula babies do gain weight a lot quicker than breastfed babies”.
Recently in the U.K. they have said that babies whose mothers give them more control over their early attempts at eating solid food appear to do a better job of regulating their own weight.
“Feeding in the first year of life necessitates a great deal of parental control given that young infants are incapable of feeding themselves independently, yet the data are compatible with the suggestion that in normal circumstances, infants develop best when given as much autonomy as possible,” Dr. Claire Farrow from Keele University in Staffordshire and colleagues write.