Childhood Obesity From Birth? Infant Eating Habits Impact Taste Preferences Years Later

Research has shown that our eating habits, including whether we were breastfed, carry over many years later. And poor eating habits can lead to childhood obesity.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that moms attempt to breastfeed their babies until six months and then combine breast milk with other foods until one year. While 75 percent of moms attempt to breastfeed, only 16 percent breastfeed for the full six months. It’s not completely clear why but according to a new study, parents from lower income brackets were more likely to use formula rather than breastfeeding in the first six months. And those same moms were more likely to feed their infants foods that were higher in sugar and fat.

Parents from higher income and education brackets were more likely to abide by their doctor’s recommendations.

Read more about the importance of breastfeeding for both babies and mothers

“Dietary patterns are harder to change later if you ignore the first year, a critical period for the development of taste preferences and the establishment of eating habits,” lead author Xiaozhong Wen, an assistant professor at the University of Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, said in a statement, reported in Time.

Researchers publishing in the journal Pediatrics looked at the eating patterns of nearly 1,500 infants at 6 and 12 months old. They analyzed 760 boys and 795 girls by having mothers report on their infant’s intake of 18 types of food in the past 7 days. Diets high in sugar and fat spelled trouble years later.

“We’re seeing poor eating habits starting early in life, and they mirror those of older children and adults. Parents and caregivers need to know that eating patterns are set early – between 12 to 24 months. It’s crucial to establish the foundation for healthy diets early in life when eating habits and food preferences are being formed,” said Kathleen Reidy, DrPH, RD, who heads the Nutrition Science department for Nestlé Infant Nutrition, which conducted another such study, reported in Parents.

It makes sense. If our tastebuds become adapted to high fat, high sugar foods when we’re younger it’s much more difficult to change our eating habits as kids when we already know how tasty these foods can be. But considering that childhood obesity impacts 10 percent of 2 to 5 year olds, your child’s diet as an infant is so important.

Read more about steps to prevent childhood obesity


Image: Daniel James

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By Sara Novak| November 10, 2014
Categories:  Eat

About the Author

Sara Novak

Sara Novak

Sara Novak specializes in health and food policy writing for Discovery Health. Her work has also been featured on TreeHugger,, TLC Cooking, and Animal Planet. After graduating from the Grady School of Journalism at the University of Georgia, Sara headed up the communication efforts for a national scholarship program in Washington, D.C. Sara has also handled copy writing and public relations for a global environmental consulting firm. She loves fiddling with healthful recipes, traveling, and exploring life atop her yoga mat. Today, Sara lives in Charleston with her husband and two lovable cocker spaniels, Madison and Bella.

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