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Julie Lumeng
Julie Lumeng

Easily Calmed Infants at Risk for Obesity at Age 4?

Medpage Today 3/12/19

Children born to mothers with gestational diabetes, and who were easier to soothe as infants were linked with a higher risk of obesity as children, researchers found.

In a cohort of nearly 400 mothers with gestational diabetes mellitus and their children, infants who had higher “soothability” (defined as “reduction of fussing, crying or distress when soothing techniques were used by the caregiver”) were more likely to develop obesity at ages 2 through 5 (adjusted OR 2.22, 95% CI 1.04-4.73), reported Myles Faith, PhD, of the University of Buffalo — State University of New York, and colleagues.

Moreover, infants high in soothability were more likely to have started drinking fruit juice or sugar-sweetened beverages at age 6 months or less (20% vs 9.7% for those low in soothability), the authors wrote in JAMA Pediatrics.

“It may be that for infants high in soothability, sugary beverages are a way to help with emotion regulation, and then parents may have learned to use sugary beverages or perhaps foods to soothe distress,” Faith told MedPage Today.

The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends milk be the only nutrient fed to infants until they are 6 months old and that it is “optimal” for children to avoid juice until they reach age 1. The AAP guidelines also note that juice “should not be sipped throughout the day or used as a means to calm an upset child.”

Julie Lumeng, MD, of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, who was not involved with the research, said giving mammals sugar can cause pleasurable sensations and doing so has been shown to reduce crying and pain in newborns. She noted that contrary to this study, prior evidence has demonstrated an association between greater infant fussiness and future obesity. Obesity can be influenced by a host of factors and, as such, further research is needed to determine this association, she added.

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