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A Little Perspective on the Obesity Study

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

I think some of my regular readers are wondering why I'm so up in arms about the new obesity study. I'd imagine that they are thinking something along the lines of"

"Jennifer usually thinks these things through pretty carefully and tends to not get upset by the minor things. This is just another stupid study, who cares what it says?"

You guys are right...to a degree. But I've had enough comments come in that I figured I needed to address the issue.

A single study that says that breastfeeding does not prevent or help prevent obesity does nothing to lessen the benefits of breastfeeding. It shouldn't keep people from breastfeeding. It certainly doesn't say that breastfeeding causes or contributes to obesity, so normally, I'd pretty much disregard it and say "whatever folks, there are bigger battles to be fought."

But this time...this study...it goes deeper.

So, let's take a look at a screen shot of Google News from this morning...read through those headlines and get the general idea of what your average, not super informed person is going to take away from it...

Take-away point: Breastfeeding does not prevent (or even help prevent) obesity

Now, let's take a look at another screen shot of Google News this morning to see some other news that has been talked about in the last week.

Take-away point: A new formula is being created that WILL help prevent obesity

Is my point of view on the study making a little more sense yet?

Now you guys know that I'm pretty rational. I'm not a conspiracy theory type, I don't tell you to boycott Nestle (that's your own choice) and I pretty much NEVER rant against formula because I believe that breastfeeding stands up on its own merits and no mother that ends up needing to use formula for any reason should be made to feel bad about her choice.

HOWEVER, I do not think that it can be written off as "it doesn't matter" when a study this flawed comes out and gets THAT MUCH news coverage right at the same time that other news is breaking about a new component that will be added to formula to "help prevent obesity."

The reason that I addressed this study and worked so hard to help you understand what I feel the flaws are and why I don't think it should be taken as truth is because legions of moms around the globe are going to be seeing, hearing and reading about how breastfeeding does not help protect against obesity at any stage of life. (Which again, runs contrary to many peer-reviewed studies.) At the same time, they are going to be hearing about a new type of formula that claims it WILL help protect against obesity.

I want to make sure that as you go out into the world and as you run into people that comment about these two news stories that you are informed enough to explain why these two studies do not negate the benefits of breastfeeding. So that you are armed with the information that allows you to say "Well actually, that study really didn't do much of anything except show that white nurses suffer from obesity at the same rate whether breastfed or formula fed."

So take it for what you will, but based on those two Google images above, I think this topic was worth getting a little up in arms about.

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  1. Blogger Naki | 8:11 AM |  

    Wow something smells foul to me. Thanks for the added info Jennifer. I will pass on to friends.

  2. Anonymous Anonymous | 8:17 AM |  

    This is very interesting. I looked at some of the articles about the new formula. Most said that the leptin they are adding to the baby formula just replaces what has been previously left out, but always present in breast milk. Then I came across this article. I bet we're going to be hearing a lot more about this in the future.


    Jennifer R.

  3. Blogger Jennifer | 8:34 AM |  

    I think this might be the most disconcerning quote of the article:

    "Researchers don't know whether leptin offers any advantages or disadvantages for infant development, but they do know that infants whose nursing mothers have significant fat tissue will be exposed to more leptin in the milk. "Leptin levels reflect the mom's leptin levels," Houseknecht says. "Very thin mothers don't produce very much leptin. This adds another interesting twist to this story, because if leptin is important for infant development, these varying levels may mean that some infants are at a disadvantage."

    I would hate to see this perpetuate the "I don't have a good enough diet" or "I want to drink alcohol" arguements for why women say they can't/won't breastfeed. Imagine if word starts to spread that thin women or heavy women shouldn't nurse because they don't (or do) produce leptin in the milk?


  4. Anonymous Anonymous | 10:34 AM |  

    The whole prevents/doesn't prevent obesity thing doesn't make much sense to me. Wouldn't it rest more on your eating and lifestyle habits as you get older, not to mention your family's genes, rather than something you ate as an infant? Oh, but of course, that logical thinking wouldn't have people buying formula so they can have skinny kids. *eyeroll*


  5. Blogger Nevanna | 10:39 AM |  

    *WHY* would you develop an infant food to SUPPRESS hunger?? Newborns are supposed to eat eleventy billion times a day...if they do, it's because they need it. My six month old still nurses every two hours and twice during the night (plus solids, twice a day).

    Okay, rant over, I didn't read the article--but the tag just disturbed me on so many levels.

  6. Blogger Jennifer | 10:40 AM |  

    Let me be crystal clear in that I don't think anyone means to say that breastfeeding will keep your kids from getting fat or will make them get fat, I think that people (and researchers) are saying that studies have shown that breastfed children have a slight advantage in terms of metabolism, hunger cues, stop eating cues, etc...

    I also think there's little denying the fact that mothers that breastfeed are probably more likely to go on to make health concious decisions as to what to feed their kids.

    As Jessica has pointed out in another thread, most people form the eating habits that will define their life during their youth.

  7. Blogger So Not Organized | 12:26 PM |  

    So, they're putting leptin in formula? Is that the supposed "magic" ingredient to keep obesity down?

    I didn't read any of the links, but if it's in breastmilk, doesn't that just mean formula is "catching up" a bit more? If leptin in formula is to keep obesity down, wouldn't leptin in breastmilk do the same?

    Oh, never mind. I'm able to read through marketing buzz and interpret results for myself (which apparently is more than the general public).

  8. Anonymous rachel | 1:09 PM |  

    ok, I was ready to write you off as crazy and never visit your blog again, but I appreciate this post and your 10:40am comment here.

    Like Jennifer R said most articles seem to say that they are just making formula more breastmilk-like. Most telling to me is that formula companies try to be as much like breastmilk as they can, but aren't there.

    I think having a knee-jerk reaction to something not completely positive about breastfeeding, turns people off (at least I know it does to me and my husband). I'd spend more time looking into these claims about the new formulas (just trying to make milk more breastmilk-like?) and point out what is still lacking in formula that exists in breastmilk.

  9. Blogger Jennifer | 1:36 PM |  

    LOL, stick around Rachel, you may still decide that I'm crazy. ;) Probably for a whole other reason though...

    And thank you for posting your question in the comments. I should have led with this post and THEN made the long ranty post. It would have put it more in context for those that are new to the blog.

    Always learning...always learning. :)

  10. Blogger Amy | 1:53 PM |  

    They say that what you feed your child for a year of their life won't make a difference in adulthood. But think about what you aren't giving your child for that year of life? Turn it around. If you don't give them the best, it's okay. But, what if you give them something that's not the greatest?
    This whole flawed study is really bothering me. I think comparing a breastfeeding pair from the 50s-60s to a breastfeeding pair of today will show dramatic differences in what "breastfeeding" is. Four hour schedules, introducing cereal at three weeks, and meat at 2 months probably does not set your children up for successful eating habits, or healthy digestive systems as adults.
    I agree that the terminology used in both the study and new infant formula articles can be misleading if you are not very informed.

  11. Blogger Jordan | 2:07 PM |  

    Best of all, we don't really understand obesity. I was reading an article a few months ago that said that 1 in 5 children who are above the 50th percentile as infants (I can't remember whether it was at birth or what) will grow up to be obese. And this was supposed to be earth-shattering, horrific bad news.

    Right. What I thought was, "Wow, 80% won't be obese."

    What is it they say about statistics?

  12. Anonymous Anonymous | 2:20 PM |  

    I was trying to remember what all I've heard about the reasons why breastfeeding is likely to result in decreased rate of obesity. I remembered something about the fat cells. Here's one article I found about it.


    Jennifer R.

  13. Blogger sburgernutr | 5:03 AM |  

    Many thanks for digging up these press releases. I was wondering about the leptin connection. The New York Times did an article (might have been the Sunday Magazine) that included that reference and never posted my comment that the solution was breastfeeding, not putting it in formula. I'm going to read all these articles in depth. How do we get "On the Media" to expose this? Any thoughts?

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