Health Buzz: Six Months of Breast-feeding May Not Be Best

One man's route to weight loss; the First Lady's fight to end obesity.

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Breast-feeding Exclusively for Six Months Could Increase Risk of Food Allergies, Iron Deficiency

Breast-feeding babies for the first six months of their lives may not be as good as giving them solid food earlier, new research suggests. Babies who are not weaned until they are six months old could face a heightened risk of food allergies and iron deficiency, according to a report published today in the British Medical Journal. The researchers, who analyzed already existing studies, targeted the United Kingdom's recommendation that mothers breast-feed exclusively for six months. The World Health Organization adopted the same recommendation in 2001, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also maintains that breast milk alone is sufficient for that period of time. Sticking to the six-month advice in developing countries, where clean water and safe weaning foods are scarce, is appropriate, since the infection risk is higher. But babies in developed countries should be weaned when they are around four months old, the researchers say.

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  • Junk Food: The New Weight-Loss Diet?

    Losing a double-digit chunk of weight in one month was a piece of cake for Mark Haub, U.S. News reports. In August 2010, the Kansas State University professor of nutrition began a 10-year-old's dream diet of Twinkies, Ho Hos, and brownies for each meal. Thirty days later and 15 pounds lighter, Haub not only feels great, but his bad cholesterol is down, his good cholesterol is up, and his blood pressure is fine. But while he is pleased about his new, trimmer self, that's not the reason he switched to junk food. He wanted his students to see for themselves that any diet can produce weight loss­—and if accomplished with a menu all but guaranteed to wreak havoc, then weight shouldn't be the sole standard for good health.

    Haub's diet grew from a course he teaches on energy balance. Weight loss, he told his students, is simply about consuming fewer calories than you burn—energy in, energy out. To illustrate the point, Haub announced that he would eat exactly the kind of junk that's supposed to be off-limits to someone who wants to lose weight. "If weight loss is the ultimate goal," he asked his students, "does it matter how I achieve it?" [Read more: Junk Food: The New Weight Loss Diet?]

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    • Can Michelle Obama End Obesity? 5 Key Steps

      When Michelle Obama promised in January 2010 to attack childhood obesity, she declared, "We have everything we need right now—we have the information, we have the ideas, and we have the desire to start solving America's childhood obesity problem. The only question is whether we have the will." So conquering the nation's weight problem should be relatively easy, right? Her 70 recommendations, which include everything from more gym to encouraging women to breastfeed, are based on some science. But nobody knows if they'll actually work, U.S. News reports. "I'm sure the first lady has every sort of concern for this problem and the belief that it's in our hands, but we've been studying this for years and still don't have precise answers," says Rudolph Leibel, a professor of pediatrics and medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons who helped discover leptin, the hormone that regulates hunger. "We don't even know the precise causes." [Read more: Can Michelle Obama End Obesity? 5 Key Steps]

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