Toddlers and preschoolers who drink multiple bottles of milk or sweet liquids each day are more likely than others to be obese and to be anemic due to low levels of iron in their blood, according to New York researchers.
The research team interviewed the parents of 95 children between the ages of 18 and 56 months. Most of the children were either Latino or African American. They measured the levels of iron in the children's blood and calculated their body mass index (BMI), a measure of weight in relation to height used to gauge obesity.
Kahn and his team found that 64% of the children received at least three bottles of milk or sweet liquids each day, with some parents reporting that their children drink up to 10 bottles daily. Many of the children were also either overweight or anemic due to low levels of iron in their blood. More than one third of the children had BMIs that classified them as obese, and 21% were anemic.
Comparing bottle use to the rates of obesity and anemia, the team discovered that children who drank many bottles each day were more likely than others to be obese or anemic. They explained that the calcium in milk can influence how well the body absorbs iron from the diet, as can a milk protein known as casein.
In terms of the link between bottle feeding and obesity, the researcher estimated that each milk-filled baby bottle contains 180 calories, and kids who drink many bottles each day are likely getting all the calories they need from their bottles.
Many parents do not realize that drinking bottles can diminish a child's appetite. As a consequence, either the child eats on top of drinking bottles--which can put him at risk of obesity--or the child struggles against the parent who is forcing food on him, leading to conflicts within the family.
The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends that parents try to pry bottles out of their children's mouths once they turn 16 months old. But based on these findings, the researchers recommend that weaning begin in children as young as one year old.
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