Childhood obesity is a growing concern around the world. In the United States, a significant portion of infants and toddlers are overweight or obese, and young children with less healthy diets are at risk for obesity early in life. Despite the importance of beginning prevention early and getting infants off to a healthy start, researchers have little information about what types of prevention efforts are most effective.
Researchers, supported by the Pediatric Growth and Nutrition Branch, compared two different prevention approaches to each other and to a “usual care” approach. The first prevention strategy, called Healthy Moms, was designed to promote healthy eating among the mothers. The program was developed on the premise that mothers are role models for the children, and that if mothers develop healthy habits for themselves, it will lead to healthy eating for the children as well. The second prevention approach, called Ounce of Prevention, was designed to teach mothers about healthy infant feeding practices, such as allowing the child to determine when he or she is full, and not using food as a reward. The “usual care” approach included typical guidance provided to new mothers, such as recommending breastfeeding, but did not incorporate special efforts to prevent childhood obesity. Researchers conducted the study at three clinics in Ohio, randomly assigning each clinic to implement one approach.
After 1 year, the researchers found that mothers in the Healthy Moms group gave their infants less juice and more daily servings of fruit and vegetables compared with mothers in the “usual care” group. Mothers in the Ounce of Prevention group also gave less juice and more fruit to their children than the mothers in the “usual care” group. However, neither group provided the full number of recommended servings of fruits and vegetables.
The results showed that providing specific obesity prevention guidance to mothers resulted in positive but not dramatic changes in infant diets (PMID: 22891225).