Many paediatricians recommend that infants should be exclusively breastfed for first four to six months, which should be later replaced by milk formula and cereals, and gradually by solid foods. Earlier researches have indicated that children who are fed solid foods earlier than six months are more likely to be overweight in childhood. In fact, ill-timed introduction of solid foods may also increase the risk of developing other health issues like eczema, food allergies, and asthma.
The latest research carried out by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health discovered that infants who started having solid foods early on - at or before three months of age - showed changes in the levels of gut bacteria and bacterial byproducts, called short-chain fatty acids, which made them prone to future health risks. The results of the study were published in the journal of BMC Microbiology.
Noel Mueller, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the Bloomberg School said, "How the early introduction of solid foods would cause the later development of obesity has been unknown, but our findings suggest that disruptions to gut bacteria may be one explanation."
The researchers set out to understand how the timing of solid food introduction could affect a child's metabolic system and immune health. Mueller and his colleagues studied data from the Nurture study, which tracked infants in a community in Durham, North Carolina, for the first year of life. The team measured the samples from infants who had started on solid foods at or before three months, and realised they contained a significantly higher diversity of bacteria, compared to samples from infants who had started later on solid foods.