Sugary baby foods could be a health timebomb, top doctor warns

‘Formula milk is fuelling obesity’: Sugary baby foods and lack of breastfeeding could be a health timebomb, top doctor warns

  • Formula-fed babies are more likely to grow up obese, Dr Kingdon has claimed
  • Just 81% of mothers breastfeed newborns with 34% continuing after six months 
  • Dr Kingdon accused formula firms of ‘pursuing stressed parents’ to boost profits
  • She said many kids are weaned with pre-prepared foods that start a sweet tooth

Low breastfeeding rates and sugary baby foods are fuelling our obesity crisis, the UK’s leading children’s doctor has warned.

Formula-fed babies are more likely to grow up obese and develop health problems, Dr Camilla Kingdon said.

But just 81 per cent of mothers breastfeed newborns, with 34 per cent continuing after six months.

Dr Kingdon, the new president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, accused formula firms of ‘pursuing stressed parents’ to boost profits. 

Formula-fed babies are more likely to grow up obese, Dr Camilla Kingdon, the new president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said (stock image)

And she said a huge shortage of health visitors means new parents are not getting the advice they need to help them make the right choices.

Many children are weaned with pre-prepared foods that give them a sweet tooth and instil ‘unfortunate habits’, she added. 

Speaking to the Daily Mail in her first interview since taking up her role this week, Dr Kingdon said: ‘Breastfeeding rates in this country are not nearly as good as they could and should be… We know that breastfeeding is one of the most important public health interventions and it costs nothing.’

She said benefits include a lower risk of postnatal depression for mothers, reduced risk of infections for babies, and protection against some cancers – along with growing evidence that it protects against obesity.

BEING FAT IN TEENS ‘TRIPLES STROKE RISK’ 

Obese teenagers are three times more likely to suffer a stroke before the age of 50, a study has revealed.

The odds of brain clots rise with weight – and even those with a body mass index (BMI) at the high end of the ‘normal’ range are at greater risk, researchers said.

Scientists at Hebrew University in Jerusalem analysed data on 1.9million men and women aged 16 to 20 from 1985 onwards.

There were 1,088 strokes in the group, at an average age of 41 for the first stroke, according to the study published in the journal Stroke.

Overweight teenagers had double the risk of stroke before the age of 50 compared to those with a low to normal BMI.

Obese teenagers were 3.4 times more likely to have a stroke before 50.

Study co-author Dr Gilad Twig said strokes are on the rise, adding: ‘Our findings underscore the importance of effective treatment and prevention of high to normal and excessively high BMI during adolescence.’

A third of children in England are overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school.

Dr Kingdon, who has two daughters aged 18 and 21, continued: ‘I found it very difficult with my first and used formula. What I don’t agree with is the formula industry pursuing stressed parents in order to make their profit – especially when it’s at the expense of the health of both the child and the mother, never mind the cost.’

Dr Kingdon said many parents now think it is normal to buy sugary baby food when it would be cheaper and healthier to cook one family meal. 

Meanwhile, the Institute of Health Visiting says health visitor numbers have fallen by a third in five years, with staff looking after up to ten times as many babies as they should.

These extra-qualified nurses or midwives typically make five visits to advise on feeding and raising children and to identify problems.

Dr Kingdon, a consultant neonatologist, said the UK must invest in these staff so mothers feel supported to breastfeed.

Her college advises breastfeeding exclusively for up to six months and then alongside solid food for as long as mothers wish. 

It adds that healthcare staff should respect women who are unable or choose not to breastfeed.

Dr Kingdon also said it was important not to ‘heap guilt’ on busy parents who are doing their best. 

She said she has never known a more difficult time to be a parent and praised them for doing a ‘phenomenal job’ while schools have been closed.

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