Nav: Home

Study: Difference in breast milk concentrations impacts growth up to age 5

February 18, 2020

Breastfeeding affects infant growth and, researchers have found, helps prevent obesity, both in childhood and later in life. However, the components of breast milk responsible for these beneficial effects remain mostly a mystery.

Human milk is an elaborate blend of proteins, fats, minerals and vitamins, plus complex sugar molecules called human milk oligosaccharides, or HMOs. There are approximately 150 types of HMOs. Like thumb and tongue prints, the combination and concentration of HMOs is unique to each nursing mother.

In a new study, published in the February 18, 2020 online issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine confirmed the findings of previous pilot studies that found an association between HMO concentrations and infant weight and body composition.

The earlier pilot studies looked at a smaller, combined cohort of approximately 30 infants who were exclusively breastfed and who displayed excessive weight gain over a period of six months. The UC San Diego study examined a much larger cohort of 802 mothers and their children, part of the longitudinal Steps to Healthy Development of Children (STEPS) study, led by researchers at the University of Turku in Finland. The children were examined from birth to age 5.

The researchers found that high concentrations of one HMO called 2'-Fucosyllactose (2'FL) and low concentrations of another HMO known as Lacto-N-neotetraose (LNnT) were associated with growth in infancy and early childhood. Depending upon concentrations of HMOs in mother's milk, but independent of the mother's pre-pregnancy body mass index or duration of breastfeeding, infant height and weight can vary by half a standard deviation. Standard deviation is a measure of how spread out numbers are.

"We were surprised by the magnitude of the association," said senior author Lars Bode, PhD, professor of pediatrics at UC San Diego School of Medicine and director of the Larsson-Rosenquist Foundation Mother-Milk-Infant Center of Research Excellence. "The impact persisted long after actual exposure to HMOs during breastfeeding. Our analytical platform allows us to measure and associate individual HMOs with specific health and development outcomes."

HMOs are natural prebiotics that contribute to the shaping of the infant gut microbiome, which may affect health and disease risk. But they also act independently of the microbiome, protecting the infant from diseases, such as infectious diarrhea or necrotizing enterocolitis, a serious condition that impacts the intestine of premature infants. HMOs potentially also reduce the risk for non-communicable diseases, such as asthma, allergies and obesity later in life.

"Our goal is to generate a deep mechanistic understanding of how HMOs in a mom's milk can contribute to infant health and development. Although we are only at the very beginning, the generated knowledge provides fascinating new opportunities," said Bode. "Some HMOs could help infants who are behind the growth curve; other HMOs could do the opposite and help lower the risk of childhood obesity. We could even imagine applying HMOs as novel therapeutics for adults who either need to gain weight or suffer from overweight and obesity."

Bode said the study is also an example of how data can help guide the development of HMO blends for different products promoting health. "We could tailor HMO composition in products based on actual scientific evidence and desired outcomes. Much like personalized medicine."

The association results from cohort studies are an impactful way to generate new hypotheses, said the researchers, especially if several different cohorts show very similar associations. However, association studies do not prove causality. Bode said his team's next steps include bringing the data back to the lab to test whether or not HMOs, either alone or in combination, affect growth and to pinpoint the underlying mechanisms.
-end-
Co-authors include: Chloe Yonemitsu and Julia Gupta, UC San Diego; Hanna Lagström, Samuli Rautava, Helena Ollila, Anne Kaljonen and Olli Turta, University of Turku; and Johanna Mäkelä, Tampere University Hospital.

University of California - San Diego

Related Obesity Articles:

Changing the debate around obesity
The UK's National Health Service (NHS) needs to do more to address the ingrained stigma and discrimination faced by people with obesity, says a leading health psychologist.
Study links longer exposure to obesity and earlier development of obesity to increased risk of type 2 diabetes
Cumulative exposure to obesity could be at least as important as actually being obese in terms of risk of developing type 2 diabetes (T2D), concludes new research published in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes [EASD]).
How much do obesity and addictions overlap?
A large analysis of personality studies has found that people with obesity behave somewhat like people with addictions to alcohol or drugs.
Should obesity be recognized as a disease?
With obesity now affecting almost a third (29%) of the population in England, and expected to rise to 35% by 2030, should we now recognize it as a disease?
Is obesity associated with risk of pediatric MS?
A single-center study of 453 children in Germany with multiple sclerosis (MS) investigated the association of obesity with pediatric MS risk and with the response of first-line therapy in children with MS.
Women with obesity prior to conception are more likely to have children with obesity
A systematic review and meta-analysis identified significantly increased odds of child obesity when mothers have obesity before conception, according to a study published June 11, 2019 in the open-access journal PLOS Medicine by Nicola Heslehurst of Newcastle University in the UK, and colleagues.
Obesity medicine association announces major updates to its adult obesity algorithm
The Obesity Medicine Association (OMA) announced the immediate availability of the 2019 OMA Adult Obesity Algorithm, with new information for clinicians including the relationship between Obesity and Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes Mellitus, Dyslipidemia, and Cancer; information on investigational Anti-Obesity Pharmacotherapy; treatments for Lipodystrophy; and Pharmacokinetics and Obesity.
Systematic review shows risk of a child developing overweight or obesity is more than trebled by maternal obesity prior to pregnancy
New research presented at this year's European Congress on Obesity (ECO) in Glasgow, Scotland (April 28- May 1) reveals that the risk of a child becoming overweight or obese is more than trebled by maternal obesity prior to getting pregnant.
Eating later in the day may be associated with obesity
Eating later in the day may contribute to weight gain, according to a new study to be presented Saturday at ENDO 2019, the Endocrine Society's annual meeting in New Orleans, La.
How obesity affects vitamin D metabolism
A new Journal of Bone and Mineral Research study confirms that vitamin D supplementation is less effective in the presence of obesity, and it uncovers a biological mechanism to explain this observation.
More Obesity News and Obesity Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.