Friday, January 28, 2011

Epidemic, shmecidemic... let's breastfeed!

Have you turned on the boob tube, read or opened a newspaper in the past 5 years? If so, chances are you've heard about the Epidemic that has swept our nation and is circling the globe... obesity!  Wow, so people are getting fatter at alarming rates.  Not only are we getting fatter, but we're getting fatter at a younger age than ever. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), the following chronic diseases are directly linked to Obesity:
  • ♥ disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Cancers, such as breast and colon
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • High total cholesterol or high levels of triglycerides
  • Stroke
  • Liver and gallbladder disease
  • Sleep apnea and respiratory problems
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Reproductive health complications
Isn't that amazing?? That ONE condition could be directly linked to so many other chronic diseases, interfering with daily life activities, overall happiness/contentment, financial expenditures and much more?!!  I don't want to depress anyone with a blog post about death, morbidity and disease.  So, I think I'll shed a little light on this EPIDEMIC of GREAT PROPORTIONS-- OBESITY...

There are things you can do to prevent obesity and many other chronic diseases!  One AMAZING thing is... breastfeed.  According to The United States Breastfeeding Committee Chair, Joan Younger Meek, MD, MS, RD, IBCLC, "Multiple studies have shown that a history of not breastfeeding increases the risk of being overweight or obese in childhood and adolescence. Adolescent obesity often persists into adult life. Breastfeeding plays an important role in obesity prevention and improving overall health outcomes, and therefore is vitally important to public health."

According to Dr. Sears, research has also shown that even in infancy breastfed babies as a whole are leaner than their formula-fed peers. Studies have shown that children who are breastfed are less likely to be obese during adolescence, and that longer periods of breastfeeding greatly reduce the risk of being overweight in adulthood. Overweight children are more likely to become overweight adults. Since breastfed babies themselves control how much they eat, children who are breastfed learn to trust their bodies' signals about how much they need to eat and when. This builds healthy eating habits right from the start. Some parents might encourage a formula-fed baby to finish up the last ounce or two of milk in the bottle, but you can't do this to a breastfed baby. Have you ever tried?  I have... especially when very full.  But when a baby is finished, they're finished!

Dr. Sears (don't you love him?) also adds that babies who are breastfed are less likely to develop type 1 diabetes in childhood. Researchers have attributed this lowered risk of diabetes to the delayed introduction of cow milk in breastfed babies. In addition, researchers have shown a lower insulin release in breastfed infants compared to infants fed formula. This preventive effect is particularly important if you have a family history of diabetes.

Dr. Meek points out that the longer and the more exclusively babies breastfeed, the better their health outcomes. "Both duration and exclusivity should be considered when investigating the relationships between breastfeeding and obesity. The duration of breastfeeding has been shown to be inversely related to overweight--meaning that the longer the duration of breastfeeding, the lower the odds of overweight. And although further research is needed, exclusive breastfeeding appears to have a stronger protective effect than breastfeeding combined with formula feeding."
The value of breastfeeding to health of babies and mamas is evidence-based, solid, and continually being reaffirmed by new research. The review and analysis of breastfeeding research released in 2007 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Health care Research and Quality strongly supports the evidence-based research, which revealed the following success of breastfeeding:

For Child: reduced risk of ear, skin, stomach, and respiratory infections, diarrhea, sudden infant death syndrome; and in the longer term, reduced risk of obesity, type 1 and 2 diabetes, asthma, and childhood leukemia.

For Mama: reduced risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, and postpartum depression.
Breastfeeding has been shown to help mamas shed pregnancy weight (burning up to 500 calories a day)!

Other steps you can take today to prevent obesity tomorrow...
  1. Eat a variety of fruits and veggies, and try to cut down of fatty foods. Swap out your nightly bowl of chips and dip with crunchy veggies and hummus, which is a personal fave!
  2. Get up and move!  You don't have to run marathons like my rock star friend Molly in order to fight off obesity.  Small steps add up to great success! Ways you can sneak in more physical activity each day:
    • Take the stairs! Hey if I can run up the Hancock building in Chicago just 4 months after having L, you can certainly forgo the 2 story ride up the escalator.
    • Dance! Whether you're training for the next season of Dancing with the Stars, or you have two left feet-- no worries. Throw your cares to the wind, crank up your favorite tunes and get jiggy with it! Dancing is a favorite indoor activity at our house.
    • Take Fido for a walk, or at least toss him a snowball.
  3. Get physical, physical... Olivia had the right idea. OK, I'm not talking about nookie with your spouse! Regular physical exams with your physician are important to your overall health.  Everything from mammograms to skin checks, and from monitoring your weight to discovering a tobacco cessation program perfect for you.  Bottom line: get a physical with your physician, you'll be glad you did!
It is clear-- Obesity has serious a serious reduction in health of Americans, increasing the risk of many chronic diseases and illnesses, including: coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancers, high blood pressure, stroke, liver and gallbladder disease, sleep apnea and respiratory problems, osteoarthritis, and gynecological problems.

Do your part to help stop the Obesity Epidemic... breastfeed for the health of us all.

Happy Nursing Mamas!
Please note: I in no way take Obesity lightly; and I fully recognize the magnitude of this global health crisis. If you have medical concerns, be sure to contact your family physician to receive a comprehensive assessment of your needs.

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