February 02, 2017
2 min read

Infant dietary patterns predict weight status, eating habits at age 6 years

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Children who were breast-fed and consumed more fruits and vegetables as infants were more likely to meet dietary guidelines and have a healthy BMI at age 6 years compared with children who consumed mixed-milk and energy-dense foods as infants, according to findings published in the International Journal of Obesity.

“Data from this study suggest that the dietary patterns of children at age 6 tend to differ between infants who were breast-fed compared to formula-fed during the first year of life,” Jennifer S. Savage, PhD, assistant professor and interim director of the Center for Childhood Obesity Research at Pennsylvania State University, and colleagues wrote. “Although directionality cannot be determined from this study, these findings may help in understanding the relationship between breast-feeding and obesity risk. Namely, rather than a direct, causal relationship between breast-feeding with reduced obesity risk, findings from this study may provide some support for the idea that breast-feeding may be a proxy for other healthy behaviors and later lifestyle choices, including food availability, access and intake.”

Jennifer Savage
Jennifer S. Savage

Savage and colleagues analyzed diet and anthropometric data from 911 children enrolled in the Infant Feeding Practices Study II and the follow-up study at age 6 years. Mothers self-reported how often they served listed foods and beverages (eg, daily, weekly) in monthly food frequency questionnaires during the first year; a similar format was used for year 6. Results of a previous latent class analysis revealed five dietary patterns at age 9 months: breast-fed, fruits and vegetables; breast-fed, low variety; formula, fruits and vegetables; formula, low variety; mixed milk, high-energy density. Researchers used these infant dietary patterns to predict child diet and weight outcomes at 6 years.

At age 6 years, 23.8% of the children had overweight or obesity. Researchers found that dietary patterns at age 9 months predicted differences in intake of fruits, vegetables and other foods at age 6 years. More children in the breast-fed, fruits and vegetables class met dietary guidelines for fruits and vegetables at age 6 years vs. other groups, including the formula, fruits and vegetables group. In addition, children in both breast-fed groups consumed more water at age 6 years. Children in the formula-fed, low-variety and mixed-milk groups consumed fruit less than once per day at age 6 years; children in both formula-feeding groups consumed higher mean amounts of juice, sugar-sweetened beverages and energy-dense foods, such as french fries, vs. breast-fed children, according to researchers. The mixed-milk group had a higher mean BMI z score and greater incidence of overweight at age 6 years vs. the other classes, the researchers noted. by Regina Schaffer

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.