Main report findings
According to a new study commissioned by packaging company Tetra Pak, parents in the UK are struggling to make healthy choices for their children with more than a third (36%) admitting they feel guilty that they are not providing a healthy enough school lunchbox. One in four parents find it difficult to choose healthy food for their child’s lunchbox. “Over 60% of parents said that they would find a dedicated lunchbox aisle or section in a supermarket helpful in making healthy decisions. Food and drink manufacturers have an opportunity to better support parents in making healthier choices. Almost one in ten (9%) parents said they do not understand what on-pack nutritional information means. To tackle this, producers can ensure that they are clearly communicating the health benefits of their products. This could include clearer labelling on appropriate portion sizes, information on the role that the nutrients within the product have in promoting healthy growth and development among children, or even ‘Good for lunchboxes’ branding.”
Royal Society for Public Health
A report from the Royal Society for Public Health highlights the benefits of introducing “activity equivalent” calorie labelling to tackle obesity. The findings show consumers spend on average 6 seconds looking at food before purchase and understand symbols better than numeric information. Evidence from the University of Liverpool suggests activity equivalent calorie labelling has the potential to help cut calorie intake. The measure is supported by 63% of people, and 53% claimed they would positively change their behaviour after viewing activity equivalent calorie labelling on the front of the pack.
Maternal and Child Nutrition Journal
A new study in the Maternal and Child Nutrition Journal has found that breastfeeding can have significant long term health benefits for both children and mothers. The researchers claim that for every 597 mothers who optimally breastfeed, the number of deaths in mother and children drops by one. The US ranks 26 out of 29 countries in infant mortality among the world’s wealthiest countries.
Harvard Medical School
The research found that breastfeeding can protect mothers from early death, cancer and heart attack. Lead author of the study, Dr Melissa Bartick, is quoted as saying “Breastfeeding is far more beneficial in preventing disease and reducing costs than previously estimated”.
University of Oxford
Research revealed that the birth weight of babies is influenced by genes that are linked to the risk of developing diseases later in life, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Researchers have pointed out that the findings “strengthen the notion” that not only environmental factors can affect a baby’s size and risk of developing conditions later in life.
University of Linköping, Sweden
Women who breastfeed for more than six months have a lower risk of contracting breast cancer, claims a new study by researchers at the University of Linköping in Sweden. A new study of women 20 years after surgery for primary breast cancer shows that nursing for longer than six months led to a better survival rate. The research builds on evidence that by halting oestrogen production, breastfeeding helps prevent the development of tumours. But researchers warn that it is essential women nurse newborn babies for as long as possible to reap the benefits. The study was reported by the Daily Mail and published in Breastfeeding Medicine, the official journal of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine.
Harvard School of Public Health
Research from the Harvard School of Public Health has shown that children whose mothers underwent a C-section procedure were 15 per cent more likely to be obese by the time they were in their teens. And the increased risk may persist through adulthood, the researchers found. The use of C-sections to deliver babies is growing in Britain, with 26 per cent of births now involving the procedure.
Children with Cancer UK
New analysis of official ONS statistics by Children with Cancer UK shows how diagnosis of cancer in children aged one to 14 has increased by 40% in the last 16 years, with 1,300 more cases of young people getting cancer each year. The stark rise is most evident in colon cancer which is up by 200% and thyroid cancer which has more than doubled. Fast food, lack of exercise and pollution are thought to be the causes.
University of Otago, New Zealand
A study by the University of Otago in New Zealand has found that giving breastfeeding mothers monthly “high-dose” vitamin D supplements may be a way to improve their babies’ vitamin intake. The research was designed to combat the lack of uptake on vitamin D supplements specifically for babies during breastfeeding. Lead author Dr Ben Wheeler said, “We wanted to see if having mothers take a monthly, high-dose supplement could offer another way to help infants get sufficient levels of the vitamin”. The researchers found a “significant and clinically meaningful increase in vitamin D levels”.
Imperial College London
Researchers from Imperial College London have found that a sugar in breast milk protects newborn babies against group B streptococcal infection. This article points out GBS “is the most common life-threatening infection in newborn babies in the UK, causing meningitis, blood poisoning and pneumonia”. Babies infected with GBS “found it easier to fight off the germ if their mother’s breast milk contained a sugar called lacto-n-difucohexaose I”. Half of women are thought to produce the sugar.
Trinity College Dublin
Academics at Trinity College Dublin have found that women who give birth at home are twice as likely to breastfeed as other new mothers. The study also indicates home-birth mothers are more likely to continue breastfeeding into the baby’s first six months. Mothers who give birth at home are more likely to exclusively breastfeed for the first 24 weeks – 23% compared with 9% of other mothers.
Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Melbourne
The research suggested that women who have trouble breastfeeding may be more likely to develop post-natal depression, and are more likely to give up nursing their babies before the recommended six months. The study found the pressure may also be apparent if women who have had maternal depression find it difficult to continue breastfeeding.
Archives of Disease in Childhood
Meals which parents make at home for their baby or toddler are often less healthy and more likely to lead to their child gaining weight than shop-bought ones, a new study has found. The results have reopened the debate about what foods parents should give infants once they start weaning, in order to promote their physical and mental development.
Diet and Nutrition Survey of Infants and Young Children in the UK
Research has shown that, although overweight children consume larger meals, they do not eat more frequently than children of a healthy weight. Data showed that overweight children ate larger meals than children of a healthy weight, consuming 141 calories versus 130 calories at each meal time – but they did not eat more frequently than healthy weight children throughout the course of the day. The researchers found that for every extra 24 calories the children consumed during each meal there was a 9% increased risk of being overweight or obese.
Researchers have discovered that celebrities could be contributing to childhood obesity by endorsing unhealthy food and drinks. It targets Pepsi specifically, pointing out that four out of five products promoted by Beyonce “offer little in the form of nutrition”. Sugary drinks, fast food and sweets were among the most common items endorsed by musicians – none of the celebrities for the study promoted fruit, vegetables or whole grains. Half of the citizens surveyed associated a range of celebrities with 57 different food and drink brands.
Research has found that women who eat fruit during pregnancy are more likely to give birth to smarter children than those who do not, or eat little fruit. The scientists found that pregnant mothers who ate six or seven servings of fruit or fruit juice a day had children who placed six or seven points higher on the traditional IQ scale than expected at the age of one.
King’s College London
Scientists have found no significant link between eating dinner after 8pm and obesity in children. Previous research had suggested the time of day can impact on their internal body clock but this study of 1,620 found no greater risk of becoming overweight if they ate dinner between 8 and 10pm compared to between 2pm and 8pm.
Johns Hopkins University
The published found pregnant women who overdose on folate and vitamin B12 may increase the risk of autism in their babies. Taking too many folate supplements may double the chances of a mother’s child developing the disorder, while high vitamin B12 could triple the likelihood of autism.
The Baby Show & Made for Mums
The research found that more than three quarters of new mums in the UK struggle with breastfeeding. Out of the 1,176 women surveyed, 81% said they found it challenging to breastfeed their child, while 72% had to seek help from a midwife or specialist.
British Journal of Nutrition
Found that exclusively breastfeeding a child “may not be the best solution to increasing bone health”. The researchers are quoted as saying “Components of breast milk may be beneficial to bone development but some nutrients, such as calcium and vitamin D, may be higher in formula milk”. The scientists also said that the late introduction of solid foods was not favourable to bone development.
The study found that men with depression are more likely to have a child born prematurely. It suggests that, when the mental condition presents in the father, this can place stress on the mother and increase the chances of an early birth. Scientists had previously found that depression in mothers could cause premature birth but this is the first time that the mental condition in men has been linked to premature labour.
University of Copenhagen
Research from Denmark found that a man’s weight affects the information passed on through his sperm and “could leave his children predisposed to obesity”. The sperm cells of lean and obese men possess different epigenetic marks, potentially changing the behaviour of genes. The author of the study is quoted as saying “When a woman is pregnant she should take care of herself. But if the implication of our study holds true, then recommendations should be directed towards men too”.
New York Bronx Cardiology
Study found that pregnant women who are obese risk causing damage to their baby’s hearts with added pressure and blocking of valves. Importantly, however, the studies’ authors point out that further research is needed to find out whether these “foetal changes affect the cardiovascular health of the baby as it ages into childhood and adulthood”.
Southampton Children’s Hospital
This study found that those who were fed 600ml (just over a pint) or more of cow’s milk each day at eight months put on weight faster on average and had a higher BMI than breastfed children, right up to the age of ten. Similarly, babies fed 600ml or more of formula milk each day were on average heavier than breastfed babies up until two- and-a half years old.
Warwick Medical School
Researchers found sitting down for over six hours a day in the second trimester led to greater weight gain and diabetes in pregnancy, which can lead to birth complications. Experts also found pregnant women who feel depressed are more likely to sit down, which also increases their risk of weight gain and gestational diabetes.
Found that having a baby reduces a woman’s risk of developing ovarian cancer by up to 40 per cent. The likelihood goes down by a further 8 per cent for every additional child she has afterwards. The researchers suspect the link is due to the female hormone oestrogen, which is known to trigger tumours and is significantly lowered during pregnancy.
University Medical Centre, Utrecht
Study found that maternal weight after giving birth, not just during pregnancy, increases a child’s risk of being overweight. The lead author of the study is quoted as saying, “We already know that women who gain a lot of weight during pregnancy are more likely to have overweight children, but it is surprising that women who gain relatively much weight after pregnancy are more likely to have overweight children as well”.
Applied Economics Perspective and Policy journal
The study said that efforts to combat childhood obesity should focus on giving, not taking things away as is so often the case (removing sugar, fat etc). Calling previous schemes a “battle of subtraction”, the study says the most effective way to combat the issue is “to give them healthy food at school – and make it free”. Focusing on healthy fruit and vegetable, the study found Arkansas (a test city) saw a 5% decline in obesity. Over a lifetime, childhood obesity “can lead to $19,000 in direct medical costs alone”.
British Medical Journal
The research found that three-quarters of pregnant women in the UK report drinking some alcohol during pregnancy. Nearly a third of women in the UK reported an episode of binge drinking while pregnant – defined as six or more units on one occasion. At 75%, rates of drinking while pregnant were lower than in Ireland (86%), but higher than in Australia and New Zealand.
The research found that pregnant women are not getting enough information about the need for iodine in their diets – despite evidence that a deficiency can lead to lower IQs among children. The survey found that, while 96% of pregnant women were aware of general nutritional recommendations, only 12% were are of specific advice about iodine.
International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology
Findings show women who exercise while pregnant cut their risk of becoming diabetic and are more likely to gain less weight than those who do nothing. The study is the first to link exercise in pregnancy to these benefits, and calls on mothers-to-be to receive more advice on getting active. Expectant mothers who take moderate exercise can reduce by as much as 30% their chances of developing gestational diabetes mellitus.