Purpose of review
This article will summarize recent progress in research in the area of complementary feeding as it relates to childhood obesity. Newly emerged findings demonstrate how research on contributing factors has shifted. Examining nutrient and caloric intakes alone has failed to answer the critical question, ‘Why are some children obese, whereas others are not?’ Recent research explores parental attitudes, beliefs and parental feeding styles as contributing factors.
Studies examining the impact of specific macronutrients on obesity risk may have partially uncovered a link between consistently high protein intakes during infancy and an elevated obesity risk, at least until the second year of life. However, this relationship was not evident in all studies evaluated in a systematic review this year. Childhood obesity is not linked to any specific types of foods or food groups during the complementary feeding period. Adherence to dietary guidelines is associated with increased lean body mass, but not BMI or fat mass. Complementary feeding practices, socioeconomic and other family dynamics at least partially explain obesity risk.
As young infants are dependent on adults for nourishment, parental attitudes and beliefs about infant nutrition and actual feeding practices directly influence infant nutritional status. Early nutrition interventions to prevent obesity should take nutrition belief systems, parental feeding styles, socioeconomic and educational status, among other characteristics into consideration.