Overnutrition: Does Complementary Feeding Play a Role?

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Globally, obesity is considered an epidemic due to an increase in its prevalence and severity especially among young children and adolescents. This nutritional disorder is not limited to affluent countries as it is becoming increasingly prevalent in developing countries. Obesity is associated not only with cardiovascular, endocrine, gastrointestinal, orthopedic, and respiratory diseases, but also with psychological complications, implying a problem of far-reaching consequences for health and health services. Recently, evidence-based studies have shown that the duration of exclusive breastfeeding and the type of complementary feeds during the weaning period of an infant may have an effect on overnutrition later on in life. Thus, stemming the tide of obesity early on in life would potentially decrease the prevalence and complications of adult obesity, which could have significant implications for health care and the economy at large. This review explores the role of complementary feeding in obesity and approaches to prevention and treatment of childhood obesity by summarizing key systematic reviews. In conclusion, we found that although the relationship between complementary feeding and childhood obesity has been suspected for a long time, specific risk parameters are not as firmly established. Early introduction of complementary feeds (before the 4th month of life), high protein and energy content of feeds, and nonadherence to feeding guidelines may be associated with overweight and obesity later in life.

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