Saturday, May 7, 2011

Study links baby-bottle use to obesity

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Pediatricians and dentists encourage parents to stop giving their babies bottles by age 1 to prevent their children's teeth from decaying.

  • Research links late baby-bottle use to childhood obesity.

    File photo by John Moore, Getty Images

    Research links late baby-bottle use to childhood obesity.

File photo by John Moore, Getty Images

Research links late baby-bottle use to childhood obesity.

A new study shows another good reason to follow that advice: Kids who are drinking from a bottle when they are 2 years old are more likely to be obese by age 5 than those who aren't.

Researchers at Temple University in Pennsylvania analyzed data on 6,750 children from a federal survey and found that 22% of the children were prolonged bottle users — still using a bottle at age 2 as their primary drink container and/or were put to bed with a bottle with a calorie-containing beverage, usually milk.

About 23% of the prolonged bottle users were obese by age 5, making them 33% more likely to be obese than kids who weren't drinking from a bottle at age 2, according to the findings in The Journal of Pediatrics. Researchers factored out other things that might contribute to obesity, including the mother's weight, the child's birth weight and feeding practices during infancy.

A 2-year-old girl of average size who drinks an 8-ounce bottle of whole milk at bedtime would get about 12% of her daily calories from that bottle, says Rachel Gooze, lead author on the study.

"This is a practice that has been discouraged for years because it promotes tooth decay, and this is one of the first studies to show that it may also promote obesity," says pediatrician Robert Whitaker, professor of public health and pediatrics at Temple and study co-author.

"This study alone doesn't prove that prolonged bottle use causes obesity, but it won't do any harm to stop the bottle by age 1. A child can get adequate nutrition without it."

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the bottle be given up at around age 1 and almost certainly by 18 months.

"Drinking your calories may not be as filling as eating them," says Jennifer Shu, a pediatrician in Atlanta and the editor of, a consumer website of the pediatrics academy. "That's where the obesity problem comes in. It's so easy to drink the calories, but people often are still going to eat the same amount of food."

About a third of children and teens are obese or overweight, the government says. Those extra pounds put children at a greater risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other health problems.

The study was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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