Obesity is linked to over-feeding as infants
Mothers of small babies should not panic into over-feeding their children, experts warned yesterday, as a study revealed that faster weight gain in infancy could make them fat in later life.
Infants who were fed milk enriched with nutrients had higher body fat mass than those who were given standard formula, according to the study.
Previous studies have shown a link between over-nutrition in childhood and overweight adults in animals, but the researchers said this is the first demonstration in humans when other factors such as the size of mothers is ruled out.
Body fat mass in five to eight-year-olds was 22pc to 38pc greater in those who were given nutrient-enriched milk as babies than those who had standard formula, according to a team based at the University College London.
The scientists said the findings, published online in the 'American Journal of Clinical Nutrition', have important public health implications as Britain tackles the problem of obesity and pointed out they confirm previous estimates that more than 20pc of adult obesity may be caused by over-nutrition in infancy.
Professor Atul Singhal, who led the study, said mothers should breastfeed if possible.
"It's easier to regulate appetite and harder to overfeed breastfed babies," he said.
"If they can't breastfeed they shouldn't overfeed because babies should not put on too much weight too quickly.
"Small babies will put on weight faster than other babies anyway as they try to catch up.
"It's not a competition. Parents need to relax more about the weight."