Breastfeeding does not protect babies from becoming overweight or obese preteens, despite common beliefs to the contrary, suggests a large, new study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association. The report involved 13,879 new mothers from Belarus who participated in a study to gauge the effectiveness of a breast-feeding promotion intervention. Women in the intervention group were much more likely to breast-feed their babies exclusively and for a longer period of time. However, when the researchers followed up with their children at age 11.5, they found that breast-feeding made little difference in how many were overweight or obese, as well as in body mass index, percent body fat, waist circumference and blood levels of insulin-like growth factor, which helps regulate childhood height and body composition. The authors speculate that previous, observational studies suggesting otherwise were prone to confounding. They also point out that, while breast-feeding may not prevent obesity, it has many health benefits and should continue to be supported through public health efforts. Read the abstract.

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