Gwyneth Paltrow
Gwyneth Paltrow says she feeds her children gluten-free and low carb diet (Reuters)

Feeding babies foods high in carbohydrates increases their risk of obesity and results in a lifetime of weight gain, researchers have said.

Last week, Gwyneth Paltrow came under fire for saying she avoids feeding her family carbohydrates.

Writing in her new cookbook, It's All Good, she said: "Every single nutritionist, doctor and health-conscious person I have ever come across ... seems to concur that [gluten] is tough on the system and many of us are at best intolerant of it and at worst allergic to it.

"Sometimes when my family is not eating pasta, bread or processed grains like white rice, we're left with that specific hunger that comes with avoiding carbs."

Criticising the actress, nutritionist Yvonne Wake told the Daily Mail said Paltrow was "foolish" and could be damaging her children.

"I think it's not a good idea, especially because her children are thin - I've seen pictures of them. Kids need carbohydrate because it gives them glycogen which keeps your brain going.

"Without it they won't be able to think straight as their brain won't be functioning and their thinking patterns will be slow."

However, researchers from the University of Buffalo appear to have backed-up Paltrow's claims about carbohydrates.

In a study on rats, they found consumption of foods high in carbohydrates after birth leads people to battle weight gain and obesity in their adult lives - even if they diet.

Mulchand Patel, one of the study authors, said: "Many American baby foods and juices are high in carbohydrates, mainly simple sugars.

It's All Good
Paltrow made claims in her new book It's All Good (Life & Style)

"Our hypothesis has been that the introduction of baby foods too early in life increases carbohydrate intake, thereby boosting insulin secretion and causing metabolic programming that in turn, predisposes the child to obesity later in life."

The researchers administered rat babies with special milk formulas that were either similar to normal rat milk, or enhanced with carbohydrate-derived calories.

"These pups who were fed a high-carbohydrate milk formula are getting a different kind of nourishment than they normally would which metabolically programmes them to develop hyperinsulinemia, a precursor for obesity and type 2 diabetes," Patel said.

By three weeks, the rats fed on carbs (HC rats) were then weaned onto rat food either with free access to food or calorie restricted. They found that food intake was normal and that the rats grew at the same rate as the ones fed on normal milk.

However, once all the rats were allowed to eat without restrictions, the researchers spotted differences: "We found that when the HC rat undergoes metabolic reprogramming for development of obesity in early postnatal life, and then is subjected to moderate caloric restriction, similar to when an individual goes on a diet, the programming is only suppressed, not erased," Patel said.

Speaking about the initial high-carb diet, he said: "During this critical period, the hypothalamus, which regulates appetite, becomes programmed to drive the individual to eat more food. We found that a period of moderate caloric restriction later in life cannot reverse this programming effect.

"That's why an altered nutritional experience during this critical period can independently modify the way certain organs in the body develop, resulting in programming effects that manifest later in life."

The researchers said that to avoid obesity in later life, parents should not feed their child sold foods before a baby is four to six months.