Parliamentary Secretary for Health, Christopher Pyne, has given a new twist to the blame game.

He reckons that mothers who do not breastfeed are more likely to have fat children than those who do. And that is not the only excuse that stout people like me now have to explain our battle with the bulge. Fat pregnant mums, according to recent Australian research, also have a lot to feel guilty about.

Mr Pyne ventured in to this fat feeding frenzy while speaking at the 8th Annual Food Regulations and Labelling Standards Conference in Sydney.

“In our fight against obesity,” he told his audience, “surely breastfeeding should be one of the primary weapons in our armoury?”

“Breast is best! In Australia, the number of women who begin breastfeeding is high with 83% of infants being breastfed when taken home from hospital.

“However, exclusive breastfeeding rates decline to just 54% at three months of age and 32% at six months of age. Only 23% of children are continuing to receive breast milk at age one.”

Mr Pyne says the Government supports recommendations from the World Health Organisation and the National Health and Medical Research Council to exclusively breastfeed infants to six months of age.

A United States study of more than 8,000 girls and 7,000 boys aged nine to 14 years examined their breastfeeding status to nine months of age and found that breastfed infants were less likely to be overweight or obese adolescents.

The nutrition mothers give babies after they are born is not the only feeding they should worry about. According to researchers at the University of South Australia, being exposed to high levels of nutrition before birth can influence the development of networks within the brain that regulate appetite to permanently set a pattern of appetite for life.

“Babies born with a high birth weight have an increased risk in later life of obesity and associated health risks including diabetes,” says UniSA’s Pro Vice Chancellor: Research and Innovation, Professor Caroline McMillen who heads the research team.

“More women are entering pregnancy with a high body mass index and a range of studies worldwide have shown that heavier mothers generally have heavier babies who grow up to be heavier adults with resultant health risks.

“There is currently a real concern that the programming of obesity from before birth will result in an inter-generational cycle of obesity.”

Peter Fray

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