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Researchers looked at the diets of 73 babies at 10-months-old and two-years-old, then again every two years until they turned 20-years-old. They found breastfeeding to be a significant factor in whether or not people were overweight by age 20. The study was published in The Journal of Pediatrics.
But there's a catch: Breastfeeding was only significantly associated with a lower risk of obesity when researchers accounted for the babies' diets when they started eating solid foods, at two-years old. When babies were breastfed, then fed diets higher in fat, they were less likely to be overweight almost two decades later, when compared to babies who were breastfed, but who ate low-fat diets at two-years old. So, breastfeeding may be beneficial, but the effects can be canceled out with a low-fat diet.
Say what? "Human milk is 55 percent fat," says Marie Françoise Rolland-Cachera, PhD, researcher at the University of Paris, and co-author of the study. Sticking with a high-fat diet after breastfeeding may help your child metabolize fat later in life, she explains. On the flip side, eating a low-fat diet at a young age may compromise your child's ability to metabolize fat intake in the future.
Related: 20 Benefits of Breastfeeding
But this doesn't mean you should feel bad if you're experiencing breastfeeding challenges. Here, we put the breastfeeding-obesity debate in perspective, and asked two researchers to answer the question of the hour: Does breastfeeding really reduce the risk of obesity?