By Lisa Rapaport
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of life and, only then, start combining it with solid foods.
One team studied whether the type of food (homemade or commercial) influences the variety of diet, growth and weight. And it found that babies who only ate homemade foods had more varied diets earlier and less body fat mass when they were between one and three years old.
"The results could influence the prevention of obesity and chronic diseases associated with poor food choices," said lead author Dr. Elise Mok, from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Center and Children's Hospital of Montreal.
The WHO guidelines urge parents to feed their babies a varied diet, including red meat, chicken, fish, eggs, fruits, and vegetables from six months of age.
The team analyzed the diet of 65 babies and the accumulation of body fat when they were six, nine, 12 and 36 months old. At nine months, 14 babies (22 percent) had only tried homemade preparations and another 14, only commercial products. The diet of the majority included a combination of both types of foods.
There were no differences in the babies' height or weight for age according to diet. The same happened with the calories and nutrients consumed.
But when taking seven food groups into account, children fed only homemade foods scored almost one point higher than those who received only commercial foods.
At one year of age, the percentage of body fat was lower in the former than in the latter.
Beyond its limitations, the study was not a controlled experiment designed to show how babies' diet directly influences eating habits as they grow.