The rat study findings suggest that babies given high-carb foods soon after birth are ‘programmed’ for increased weight gain and obesity, even if caloric intake is restricted in adulthood for a period of time.
Writing in the American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism, the US-based research team said their animal data may suggest that human babies are less prone to obesity if solid foods later are given later.
“This is the first time that we have shown in our rat model of obesity that there is a resistance to the reversal of this programming effect in adult life,” explained Professor Mulchand Patel, from the University of Buffalo, USA.
Patel explained that the research, though in rats, has large implications for obesity policy and infant nutrition in the Western world where many baby foods and juices are high in simple sugars and carbohydrates.
“Our hypothesis has been that the introduction of baby foods too early in life increases carbohydrate intake, thereby boosting insulin secretion and causing metabolic programming that in turn, predisposes the child to obesity later in life,” said Patel.
Patel and his team gave newborn rat pups special milk formulas developed by them to contain either a composition that is similar to rat milk (which is higher in fat-derived calories) or enriched milk that contained carbohydrate-derived calories.
"These pups who were fed a high-carbohydrate milk formula are getting a different kind of nourishment than they normally would," Patel said – explaining that the feeding of this enriched carbohydrate milk "metabolically programs them to develop hyperinsulinemia, a precursor for obesity and type 2 diabetes."