A new study has found that babies grow up to be leaner if they have been weaned on healthy home-cooked food.
Separately, the study also found an association between longer periods of breastfeeding and low levels of fat mass.
However, the positive effects of a healthy weaning diet were independent of breastfeeding duration.
"Most studies linking infant feeding to later body composition focus on differences in milk feeding, but our study also considered the influence of the weaning diet," said Dr. Siân Robinson, PhD, of the MRC Epidemiology Resource Centre, University of Southampton in the United Kingdom and lead author of the study.
"We found that, independent of the duration of breastfeeding, children with higher quality weaning diets including fruits, vegetables, and home-prepared foods had a greater lean mass at four years of age," Robinson added.
Robinson and colleagues assessed the diets of 536 children at six and 12 months of age. Diet was assessed using a food frequency questionnaire that was administered by trained research nurses to record the average frequency of consumption of specific foods.
The age at which solid foods were introduced into the infant's diet was also recorded.
In this study 'weaning' is defined as the period of transition in infancy between diets based on milk feeding to one based on solid foods.
The subjects' body composition was assessed at four years by dual X-ray absorptiometry.
Professor Cyrus Cooper, Director of the MRC Epidemiology Resource Centre," said: These findings are enlightening. An influence of qualitative differences in the weaning diet on childhood body composition had not been described before."
The study is published in The Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism (JCEM).