A study published online in BMJ suggests that babies who are spoonfed may be more likely to become obese than their finger food-eating peers.

Nottingham University researchers analyzed questionnaires given to the parents of 155 children aged 20 months to 6 1/2 years. Most of the babies had been breast-fed.

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"Our findings show that baby-led weaning has a positive impact on the liking for foods that form the building blocks of healthy nutrition (i.e., those found at the bottom of the food pyramid)," the authors write. "Understanding the factors that contribute to healthy nutrition in early childhood is crucial as this could be the optimal time to modify food preferences so as to foster healthy diets."

Contrary to early media reports, however, the study is too small to be conclusive. Still, the results are intriguing and could result in further research:

"A large controlled prospective study is now required, which examines weaning practices in tandem with the other key factors, including BMI, milk feeding practices (breast vs. bottle/formula fed), socioeconomic status, locus of control and picky eating," the authors write.

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Researchers hypothesize that exposing infants to whole foods may be beneficial, so that babies can appreciate a food's texture and presentation. They also note that prior to the study, sweetness was thought to be the most influential factor on early food tastes.