Scientists are not sure unsure if breast milk protects children from becoming obese, scientists say.
Breast milk is the optimal first food for babies, but it is questionable whether breastfeeding protects children from becoming obese, scientists say.
Researchers from the Cincinnati Children’s Medical Center reviewed more than 80 relevant breastfeeding studies that were conducted over a period of at least 20 years.
“The best observational evidence up to now suggests that exclusively breastfeeding, or at least breastfeeding for a longer time, is associated with a 10 to 20 per cent reduction in obesity prevalence in childhood,” said Jessica Woo, a researcher at Cincinnati Children’s and a co-author of the study.
“Research conducted recently, however, suggests that by understanding the mechanisms of how breastfeeding and the composition of human milk affect infant development, we may be able to generate a more nuanced view of the connection between breastfeeding and obesity risk,” Woo said.
Woo and her colleague at Cincinnati Children’s, Lisa Martin, suggest three potential biological factors related to breastfeeding that may influence obesity later in life.
The three factors are: the role of maternal obesity, the effect of breastfeeding on how the digestive system processes food, and how breastfeeding may influence the risk of childhood obesity through alterations in taste preferences and diet.
“The complex nature of the relationship between breastfeeding and obesity, including the fact that human milk and milk production vary among women, suggests that the medical literature does not promote breastfeeding as a frontline strategy to prevent obesity,” said Martin.
The study is published in the journal Current Obesity Reports.