(NaturalNews) A recent study carried out by scientists at the University of Nottingham reveals that weaning babies with solid finger food can help them develop healthier food preferences later on in life. By contrast, spoon-feeding babies with pureed foods may actually have the opposite effect, increasing their chances of becoming obese as they grow older.
Published in the online medical journal BMJ Open, the research focused on examining various weaning styles and their impact on both food preferences and BMI (body mass index) during early childhood. BMI is a formula used to measure body fat, based on an individual's age, height and weight. Doctors will usually look at BMI to establish whether or not a person has a healthy body weight.
Weaning styles influence later health
The Nottingham University study used a sample of 155 children who had been fed solid and pureed foods after weaning. The participating parents, who had children aged 20 months to 6 1/2 years, agreed to fill a questionnaire regarding the weaning and feeding methods they had used. 92 parents opted for baby-led weaning, which means that after the age of 6 months, the baby is allowed to feed him or herself with an assortment of solid foods. 63 parents chose the traditional spoon-feeding method, which means that the baby is fed pureed foods after weaning.
Dr. Ellen Townsend, who led the study, explained what motivated her team to look at weaning techniques from a scientific point of view: "Although numerous studies have focused on when to introduce solid foods into an infant's diet, there is a dearth of evidence concerning the impact of different weaning methods on food preferences and health prospects. We believe our report is the first piece of research to examine whether weaning method can influence food preferences and the future health of the child."
Baby knows best: solid foods keep children healthy
Surprisingly, children who have been fed solid foods show a later preference for foods rich in slow release carbohydrates, whilst children who have been spoon-fed tend to like sweet-tasting foods. Looking at the final research data, co-author Dr. Nicola Pitchford explained that "baby-led weaning has a positive impact on the liking of foods that form the building blocks of healthy nutrition, such as carbohydrates. Baby-led weaning promotes healthy food preferences in early childhood which may protect against obesity." Since child obesity is on the rise in the UK, research into its early risk factors may help parents guide their children toward a more balanced diet. "This has implications for combating the well-documented rise of obesity in contemporary societies," concluded Dr. Pitchford.
Children who are allowed to feed themselves may thus learn to regulate their food intake more efficiently than children who are fed by their parents. Spoon-feeding children pureed fruits and vegetables seems to have no impact on their later preference for sweets. However, the weaning method itself is likely thefactor that ultimately establishes a child's preference for healthier foods. Other things like the parents' socio-economic status and educational background seem to also have little to no weight in determining a child's food preferences.
Although there is a clear link between weaning styles and child food preferences, the science team holds that additional studies with larger samples are needed to accurately determine the impact of various weaning methods on child health.
About the author: Raw Michelle is a natural health blogger and researcher, sharing her passions with others, using the Internet as her medium. She discusses topics in a straight forward way in hopes to help people from all walks of life achieve optimal health and well-being. She has authored and published hundreds of articles on topics such as the raw food diet and green living in general.