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    Breast-Feeding Recommendations Challenged

    Exclusive breast-feeding in first six months may be linked to anemia, allergies, celiac disease

    FRIDAY, Jan. 14 (HealthDay News) -- In light of new evidence, the 2001 World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation to exclusively breast-feed for six months has been called into question, according to an analysis published online Jan. 13 in BMJ.

    Mary Fewtrell, M.D., from the University College London Institute of Child Health, and colleagues reviewed the literature pertaining to breast-feeding, focusing on studies that have been published since the WHO guidelines were written.

    The investigators presented evidence of clinical concern for exclusive breast-feeding for six months: increased risk of iron-deficiency anemia, higher incidence of food allergies, and increased risk of celiac disease, if infants are not introduced to certain solid foods before six months. The authors also raised concerns that delayed introduction of solid food may affect future tastes, particularly the bitter taste, which may potentially affect food preferences. Avoidance of bitter foods, such as green leafy vegetables, may influence unhealthy eating patterns and lead to obesity. The authors acknowledged that exclusive breast-feeding was linked to a decreased risk of infection and that the research supports exclusive breast-feeding in resource-poor countries with a high risk of infant mortality and morbidity due to infections.

    "In the West, any proposed beneficial effects of exclusive breast-feeding to six months on infection risk would need to be weighed against plausible, or at least suggestive, evidence for adverse effects," the authors write.

    Several of the study authors disclosed financial ties to companies manufacturing infant formulas and baby foods.

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