Hungry Babies

Hungry babies, the media is telling us this week, become fat babies and adults with obesity. Looking at the studies that prompted these reports, the reporting strikes us as a bit of overreach by health journalists. JAMA Pediatrics published two studies and a companion editorial that together paint a clear picture of some infants who are born with appetites that might put them at higher risk of obesity. But headlines like “Controlling Appetite May Be Best Bet In Curbing Childhood Obesity” have nothing to do with the research. Neither study looked at interventions.

In isolation, there’s plenty of good information here.

A better understanding that biology may determine one’s appetite and obesity risk from a very early age is a good thing. These two studies provide new data that confirms prior research. One shows that some children have genetically defined appetites that dispose them to gain more weight at an early age. The other shows that some children are born with less of a response to fullness.

Dig through reporting and you can find some good perspective on how to create a healthy food environment at home. Melinda Sothern of LSU provides some good tips in an interview with Nanci Helmich for USA Today.

But the leap to telling parents that they must be alert and intervene or their hungry babies will be at risk for obesity is a leap beyond what these studies can tell us. Hypervigilance carries its own risks.

Click here to read more in USA Today and here to read more from NPR. Click here, here, and here to read the publications in JAMA Pediatrics.

Fat Baby, photograph © Rachel Hoefling / flickr

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