Three quarters of UK children ‘overfed from birth’

First new official feeding guidance in 24 years raise ‘concern’ about link to childhood obesity

Newborn babies at hospital
(Image credit: WALTRAUD GRUBITZSCH/AFP/Getty Images)

Britain’s obesity crisis could be starting in the cradle, according to experts who believe that as many as three quarters of babies are being fed too much.

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SNAC) has issued updated advice for feeding babies up to the age of one, the first new official guidance since 1994.

Among other findings, the committee - made up of experts whose findings inform government advice - raised concerns about the “proportion of infants with energy intakes above requirements and the proportion exceeding growth standards for their weight”.

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According to data gathered in 2011 for the UK Diet and Nutrition Survey of Infants and Young Children, 75% of children aged between four months and 18 months exceeded the ideal weight for their age, as determined by the World Health Organisation’s growth chart.

These statistics are “of concern in relation to wider evidence on the prevalence and risk of overweight and obesity in childhood”, according to the SNAC report.

“Experts know that people who are overweight as children are more likely to be overweight as adults,” says the BBC, but a link with overfeeding in infancy is “less clear”. Public Health England says that more up-to-date data is needed to investigate.

SNAC recommends that children under the age of one should drink only breast milk, infant formula or water, and that parents should avoid high-sugar or high-salt foods.

Professor Louis Levy, head of nutrition science at Public Health England, told the BBC that following SNAC guidelines - which recommend exclusively breast milk for the first six months before introducing solid foods would help avoid infants becoming “too heavy”.

“Further consideration is needed on ways to monitor overfeeding and overweight prevalence in infants, to help give them the best start in life,” he said.

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