Toronto researchers have discovered that breastfeeding can reduce the risk of childhood obesity, if the child is exclusively breastfed for at least three months.

“Rather than trying to treat the symptoms later, we’re better off trying to prevent them in the first place,” Dr. Stephen Lye, associate director of Mount Sinai’s Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute, said.

“This study is one of the first examples of early intervention in the fight against obesity,” he said.

The Mount Sinai study was published in the International Journal of Epidemiology on Thursday.

Researchers found that if a child is exclusively breastfed for at least three months, it can help reverse the effects of the obesity gene (FTO).

Dr. Laurent Briollais, Dr. Taraneh Abarin and Lye studied 1096 children in Western Australia from birth to 14 years of age.

They found that children who were predisposed to the FTO gene were less likely to be obese if they had been breastfeed.

The researchers measured “obesity” using the Body Mass Index (BMI) scale.

According to Statistics Canada, almost a third of Canadian children aged five to 17 are overweight or obese.