American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines state that solid foods should not be given before a baby is 4-6 months old. Many parents push these recommendations by feeding infants cereals or other solids earlier than that 4-6 month time line.
While some parents don’t feel this is a hard-and-fast rule, a new study published in the American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism finds that consumption of high carbohydrate foods too early in a child’s life can lead to lifelong increased weight gain and obesity.
The research, done in rats, shows that feeding infants solids too early creates standard, so to speak, for what the body expects to be fed and this programming is difficult to reverse as a child reaches adulthood.
“During this critical period, the hypothalamus, which regulates appetite, becomes programmed to drive the individual to eat more food. We found that a period of moderate caloric restriction later in life cannot reverse this programming effect,” said Mulchand S. Patel, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry and associate dean for research and biomedical education in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
Patel explains that these findings can impact how we, as a society, try to combat the obesity epidemic in the United States, especially in the area of infant nutrition. Further, the study supports that it’s through lifestyle change and caloric restriction that the US can address the basis of obesity at all ages.
Please discuss your plans for feeding with your pediatrician so you don’t put your child at risk for obesity or food allergies, which can be tied to feeding solids to infants too early.