Low-Income Moms Under Stress May Overfeed Infants

Efforts to prevent obesity among low-income infants should focus not only on what babies are being fed but also the reasons behind unhealthy feeding practices, according to a study to be presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Boston.

Adding cereal to bottles is one unhealthy practice that is discouraged by the American Academy of Pediatrics because it may lead to overfeeding and excess weight gain in infants.

Researchers sought to determine factors associated with putting cereal in bottles among low-income, primarily Latino households in which the risk for child obesity is high.

Mothers of 254 infants were asked if they ever added cereal to bottles to help their babies sleep longer or stay full longer. Researchers also collected information on mothers’ age, language, country of origin, marital status, education and income; whether the mother had symptoms of depression; and infants’ age, gender and whether the infant was felt to have strong emotional reactions (a high intensity temperament).

The data were collected as part of the larger Bellevue Project for Early Language, Literacy and Education Success (BELLE Project). Funded by the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the BELLE Project is following infants from birth to first grade to study issues related to parenting and child development.

Results showed that 24 percent of mothers put cereal in bottles. Those with depressive symptoms were 15 times more likely to add cereal than mothers who did not have symptoms of depression.

Depression is very common in low-income mothers and makes it more difficult to engage in beneficial parenting practices in general,” said lead author and general academic pediatrics fellow Candice Taylor Lucas, MD, MPH, who also is the Alan Mendelsohn, MD, principal investigator and associate professor of pediatrics, New York University School of Medicine and Bellevue Hospital Center. “Our results are especially concerning because they suggest that depressed mothers may be more likely to add cereal to the bottle, which may increase their children’s risk of obesity.”

Data also showed that mothers who were single were significantly more likely to add cereal to bottles. “This suggests that mothers’ support systems and family dynamics may influence feeding practices,” said obesity researcher and fellow investigator Mary Jo Messito, MD, FAAP.

Mothers who felt that their children had intense emotional reactions to daily routines were 12 times more likely to add cereal to bottles.

“Overall, these findings demonstrate that stressors prevalent in low-income households, such as depression, single parenthood and associated infant behavioral challenges, influence feeding practices likely to promote obesity,” Dr. Lucas concluded. “It is important to provide support for parents related to healthy feeding practices if we are to end the epidemic of childhood obesity.”

Source: This information is reproduced with editorial adaptations from a press release issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics. For more information click here. The study was funded by the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education.

Reviewed by:Rajeev Kurapati MD

Fear of Not Having Enough Food May Lead to Obesity

Reviewed by:Rajeev Kurapati MD

While eating too much food can cause obesity, the fear of not having enough food may lead to the same result, according to a study to be presented  at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting.

Being worried about not having enough food to feed one’s family, a situation called food insecurity, is common in low-income families. These families often are overweight, too.

“Understanding the reasons why poverty puts families at greater risk of obesity is essential to addressing the epidemic,” said study lead author Rachel Gross, MD, MS, FAAP, assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in New York.

Credit: Department of the Interior. Solid Fuels Administration For War

Dr. Gross and her colleagues at the New York University School of Medicine and Bellevue Hospital Center, interviewed 201 low-income mothers with infants younger than 6 months about their feeding styles (whether they tried to control how much the child ate), feeding practices (e.g., breastfeeding, adding cereal to bottles) and concerns about their child becoming overweight. Studies have shown that feeding patterns leading to obesity often begin in infancy.

The mothers primarily were Hispanic, and all participated in the Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).

Results showed that about one-third of the mothers reported food insecurity.

“We found that food insecurity is related to controlling feeding practices, which have been shown to increase child obesity,” Dr. Gross said. “These controlling feeding practices involved both restriction, in which parents limit the infant’s intake even if the infant is hungry, and pressuring, in which the parent encourages the infant to eat more even if the infant is full.”

It is believed that when mothers control what an infant eats, it may disrupt the child’s ability to regulate his or her own hunger and fullness, leading to overeating and inappropriate weight gain, Dr. Gross explained.

Food-insecure mothers also were more concerned about their child becoming overweight than mothers who weren’t worried about having enough food for their families.

“This work suggests that in addition to addressing hunger and malnutrition, it is critical that policy efforts be made to work with food-insecure families to prevent the opposite problem — obesity,” Dr. Gross said.

Source: This information is reproduced with editorial adaptations from a press release issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics. For more information click here.


Our Brains on Food: From Anorexia to Obesity and Everything In Between

The brains of people with anorexia and obesity are wired differently, according to new research. Neuroscientists for the first time have found that how our brains respond to food differs across a spectrum of eating behaviors – from extreme overeating to food deprivation. This study is one of several new approaches to help better understand and ultimately treat eating disorders and obesity.

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. And more than two-thirds of the U.S. population are overweight or obese – a health factor associated with cardiovascular issues, diabetes, and cancer.

Studies show that the reward areas of the brain activated by food are the same as the areas activated by addiction. However, these reward areas respond to food differently in people depending on their eating behaviors.

Brain scans were performed on individuals with one of three eating conditions – anorexia, simple obesity, and extreme obesity – as well as healthy control subjects. When hungry, those with anorexia, who severely restrict their food intake, showed substantially decreased responses to various pictures of food in regions of their brains associated with reward and pleasure. For those who chronically overeat, there were significantly increased responses in those same brain regions.

The findings prove that food intake behavior and weight outcomes are directly connected to food reward centers in the brain in both individuals with eating disorders and healthy eaters. Even in individuals who do not have eating disorders, there are areas of the brain that assist in evaluating the reward value of different foods, which in turn plays a role in the decisions we make about which foods to eat.

The study has found that as soon as people see food, their brains automatically gather information about how they think it will taste and how that will make them feel.

Source: This information is reproduced with editorial adaptations from a press release issued by the Cognitive Neuroscience Society. For more information click here.

Women: Banish the Fear of Bulking Up

Many women are afraid that lifting weights is going to cause them to “bulk-up” or possibly diminish their femininity.  As a result, their exercise routines rely heavily on cardio, leaving out one of the most important components of their overall fitness – strength training.

To those women out there:  although cardio does aid to improve both health and appearance, strength training is essential as well.  Not only will strength training make you stronger and firmer, but it’s been observed that individuals burn approximately 100 additional calories over 24 hours following a strength training workout.  Also, by increasing your muscles mass (which occurs when you lift weights) your overall metabolic rate, the rate at which you burn calories, has the potential to increase up to 15%. So, while cardio is important (especially for weight loss), strength training must be given more credit.  If your objectives are to lose weight, tone up, or to simply gain health and fitness, the only way to reach your ultimate health goals is to combine your cardio with a weight lifting program.

In 2004, the CDC reported that only 17.5% of adult women (21.9% of men) strength train two or more times per week.  To see a difference in your appearance and tone those muscles, the Mayo Clinic recommends doing 2 to 3 strength training sessions per week, that last about 30 minutes each.  By doing just this much, you can increase your strength by 50% within 6 months or less.

There are also many other health benefits associated with strength training.  According to the CDC, strength training can reduce symptoms of myriad diseases and chronic conditions including, but not limited to: arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, back pain, insomnia, and even depression.

It’s reported that 1 in 3 women over the age of 50 will experience an osteoporotic fracture, as post-menopausal women can lose up to 1 to 2% of bone mass each year.  Strength training increases bone mass and reduces fracture risk in women of this age range, which is yet another reason why women need to lift weights.

Clarifying Some Misconceptions

Let’s make truth of this common misconception that lifting weights will cause women to develop large, bulky muscles.  Because women do not naturally have high testosterone levels, they should not develop that masculine shape as a result of adding strength training into their exercise routine.  So, unless you spend hours in the gym lifting incredibly heavy weights (and consider using steroids) you won’t develop the body builder, muscle-bound look.  But, by lifting some moderate to heavy weights a few times each week you will get the toned figure you’ve been trying to attain.

Another common misconception among women is that lower weights with higher repetitions is the best method for toning muscles and gaining strength.  Again, although this does provide some benefit, try switching your routine.  Next time you’re at the gym lift heavier weights, but with fewer repetitions.  For example, increase the dumbbell weight for your bicep curls by five pounds.  Do 3 to 4 sets of 10 to 12 repetitions (so you will curl that dumbbell about 12 times, rest, and repeat that “set” 3 to 4 times).  For an extra challenge, you can increase the weight of your dumbbells after each set so that by your final rep you are fatigued (a good indicator of “fatigue” is not being able to do one more curl after what should be your last).   Be sure to use proper technique to avoid any injury, and be cautious when you are first attempting to increase your weight.  For maximum benefit, listen to your body, but learn to challenge it at the same time.



CDC MMWR Trends in strength training-United States, 1998-2004. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5528a1.htm