Two reports about obesity

March 23, 2013

John DiTraglia MD

Contributing Columnist

This week’s Journal of the American Medical Association has two study reports that are of interest to budding fat scientists.

The first addresses one of those myths we told you about several weeks ago that breast feeding babies helps to protect them from obesity. In this country breast feeding is more common among mothers of higher socioeconomic status. Higher socioeconomic status in turn is associated with less obesity in this country and that may be part of why this myth came to be.

These investigators from Europe and Canada did their study of breast feeding in Belarus, “White Russia.”(1) I’m not sure in what sense these Russians are white but their economy is mostly still state-controlled and the standard of living is not as high as in the United States. They also have a rate of childhood obesity that is only approximately 5 percent compared to our > 15 percent.

These investigators found no associations between breast feeding or not breast feeding or duration of breast feeding and multiple indexes of obesity in this population of children born at 31 Belarussian maternity hospitals and followed through age 11.5 years.

The second report addresses the question of smoking and weight gain after quitting smoking.(2) Smoking is a catastrophic killer in this country and the world. But if you quit smoking you gain between six and 12 pounds and obesity is also a risk factor for diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD). So which is worse? The answer is smoking in a big way.

They analyzed data from 5,124 children and spouses of children of the famous Framingham Heart Study cohort. After a mean follow-up of 25 years there was no difference in the reduced death from CVD benefit of quitting smoking whether or not they gained weight. Weight gain that occurred following smoking cessation was not associated with a reduction in the benefits of quiting smoking on CVD risk among adults without diabetes. The benefit of smoking cessation for those with diabetes where not as significant but again were not influenced by weight gains.

So there are many reasons why you should breast feed your baby that don’t have anything to do with obesity. You should quit smoking too, even though you will gain some weight, because it will save your life and the lives of those around you and the weight gain is OK.

1.Martin RM et al. Effects of promoting longer-term and exclusive breastfeeding on adiposity and insulin-like growth factor-I at age 11.5 years. JAMA 2013;309(10):1005-13.

2.Claire C et al. Association of smoking cessation and weight change with cardiovascular disease among adults with and without diabetes. JAMA 2013;309(10):1014-21