The Breastfeeding and Obesity Connection
As First Lady Michelle Obama launches her campaign to fight childhood obesity, the United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC) reminds the public, health care professionals, and educators that obesity prevention begins at the earliest moments of life when parents make infant feeding decisions. Breastfeeding has been shown to have an impact on obesity throughout the life span, while also contributing to numerous other positive health outcomes.
According to USBC Chair, Joan Younger Meek, MD, MS, RD, IBCLC, “Multiple studies have shown that a history of not breastfeeding increases the risk of being overweight or obese in childhood and adolescence. Adolescent obesity often persists into adult life. Breastfeeding plays an important role in obesity prevention and improving overall health outcomes, and therefore is vitally important to public health.”
Dr. Meek points out that the longer and the more exclusively babies breastfeed, the better their health outcomes. “Both duration and exclusivity should be considered when investigating the relationships between breastfeeding and obesity. The duration of breastfeeding has been shown to be inversely related to overweight–meaning that the longer the duration of breastfeeding, the lower the odds of overweight. And although further research is needed, exclusive breastfeeding appears to have a stronger protective effect than breastfeeding combined with formula feeding.”
Obesity has serious implications for the health of Americans, increasing the risk of many diseases and conditions, including: coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancers, high blood pressure, stroke, liver and gallbladder disease, sleep apnea and respiratory problems, osteoarthritis, and gynecological problems. USBC urges all Americans to support the “Let’s Move” campaign and to begin a healthy lifestyle at birth and prevent obesity through optimal breastfeeding of our Nation’s children.