Babies who are fed enriched infant formula are at a higher risk of developing heart disease and obesity later in life than babies fed with either regular formula or breast milk, reports The Guardian.
The study, from the MRC Childhood Nutrition Research Centre at the Institute of Child Health in London, suggests that over-feeding as a baby causes at least 20% of obesity cases later in life.
Professor Atul Singhal, lead author of the study, and colleagues caught up with children they had studied as babies in the 1990s. Some of the children had been fed with nutritionally-enriched-baby formula, which is now only given to weak or premature babies, while the others were fed with standard formula milk.
The researchers discovered that by the age of 8, those who were given the enriched formula had a fat mass of up to 38% more than those who were fed the standard formula.
“When they are exposed to high-protein, high-fat foods, they are more likely to become obese,” said Professor Atul.
Professor Atul explained that while breastfed babies are able to limit their own intake of milk when feeding because they have to work hard to get it, bottle-fed babies simply swallow what they are given, which increases the risk that they’ll be offered more than they need.
“This study robustly demonstrates a link between early nutrition and having more fat in later life in humans – a finding suggested by previous studies and confirmed in many other animals. Our findings are strong, consistent, show a dose-response effect, and are biologically plausible,” said Professor Atul.