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Obes Res. 1999 Sep;7(5):431-7.

Mode of infant feeding and achieved growth in adolescence: early feeding patterns in relation to growth and body composition in adolescence.

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Institute of Internal Medicine, Department of Clinical Nutrition, Götenborg University, Sweden.



Feeding mode in infancy and differences in childhood growth have been studied in several longitudinal studies, but few studies have followed children up to adolescent age. There is evidence that formula-fed infants weigh more and are taller than their breast-fed counterparts, and indications that this difference may sustain.


We have studied the relations between length of breast-feeding, growth, and body composition in a group of 781 representatively chosen adolescents. Data on feeding pattern in infancy and on weight and height from birth up to 18 years were collected. We studied the relation between high body mass index (BMI) (defined as < or =85th percentile) in adolescence and length of breast-feeding.


Girls who were not breast-fed or breast-fed for less than 3 months had a significantly higher height curve than girls exclusively breast-fed for more then 3 months. There were tendencies towards higher values of adipose tissue measured by skinfolds in girls breast-fed for 3 months or less. Short duration of exclusive breast-feeding was associated with higher BMI (p<0.04). In a subgroup of 194 adolescents, body composition was measured with dual energy X-ray. Both boys and girls who were exclusively breast-fed for more than 3 months were leaner and showed a trend towards lower skinfold values.


These results are important to include in the debate about optimal feeding in infancy. Regarding breast-feeding as a standard, our results imply that formula fed infants may be at risk for overfeeding, which might lead to overweight, even up to adolescent age.

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