Nav: Home

Breast milk analyses show new opportunities for reducing risk of childhood obesity

April 10, 2019

BOSTON - (April 10, 2019) -- New research suggests the composition of breast milk in normal weight mothers differs from that of overweight mothers, and that variations in small molecule metabolites found in breast milk are possible risk factors for childhood obesity. The new research is published online in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

It's known that maternal obesity is one of the strongest predictors of childhood obesity. "Childhood obesity increases risk for type 2 diabetes, and a host of other health complications. Our aim is to identify the earliest risk factors that predict obesity in children," says study lead author Elvira Isganaitis, MD, MPH, a pediatric endocrinologist at Joslin Diabetes Center. "We know that one of those factors is nutritional exposures in the postnatal period."

In collaboration with colleagues from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and the University of Minnesota, the researchers analyzed breast milk content and infant body measures (fat and muscle) at both one month and six months of age in 35 mother-infant pairs. Mothers were classified by pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI) less than 25 (normal) or greater than 25 (overweight/obese).

Prior to 2010, there wasn't much known about the composition of human breast milk beyond basic macronutrients, says study senior author David Fields, PhD, an associate professor at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and an expert in pediatric diabetes. "Our research digs deeper into the composition of breast milk, beyond simple carbohydrates, protein and fat."

Using the technological advance of metabolomics analyses (a technique for large-scale studies of small molecules involved in metabolism), Dr. Isganaitis and collaborators analyzed the concentration of 275 individual small molecule metabolites in breast milk. The aim was to identify the molecular features of breast milk according to the mother's weight status (normal versus overweight/obese) and then to determine if any differences predicted excess weight in the first months of the infant's life.

At one month of age, 10 metabolites were found that differentiated overweight/obese mothers from lean mothers. Of those, four were identified as nucleotide derivatives and three were identified as complex carbohydrates called oligosaccharides, which may alter the gut microbiota. At six months of age, the analysis revealed that 20 metabolites differed in overweight versus lean women. Additionally, milk adenine in obese mothers was associated with greater weight gain in infants.

While only modest differences in the milk composition between obese and lean mothers were found (10 at one month and 20 at six months, out of 275), this is the first in-depth study where we could see which substances in breast milk were more abundant in women who were overweight and which ones were lower, says Dr. Isganaitis. "Our findings suggest that a specific mix of factors --- nucleotide derivatives and complex carbohydrates -- could be therapeutic targets to improve the profile of breast milk and possibly protect children from obesity," she says.

This research is a step forward in understanding that a mother's weight status and health can influence breast milk, and, in turn, impact the health of the baby. Dr. Fields, who started the clinical research project at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, explains that by identifying and profiling molecules that differ between normal and overweight mothers, the researchers are laying the foundation for interventions---diet, pharmacological or exercise---that would improve the quality of breast milk in overweight and obese mothers.

Breastfeeding is a very beneficial behavior for both mothers and their children, says Dr. Isganaitis. "Breastfeeding should be promoted and supported. Ultimately, we would like to identify the metabolic pathways that allow breast milk to be beneficial in terms of infant weight gain, and other child health outcomes. The hope is that this data could also inform ways to make baby formula more protective in terms of future childhood obesity risk."
-end-
Other study participants are Sarah Venditti, B.Sc., Tucker J. Matthews, B.Sc., Carles Lerin, Ph.D., and Ellen W. Demerath, Ph.D.

Funding for this study was provided by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the Graetz Foundation, Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad (MINECO, Spain), Mead Johnson Nutrition, and Abbott Nutrition.

About Joslin Diabetes Center

Joslin Diabetes Center is world-renowned for its deep expertise in diabetes treatment and research. Joslin is dedicated to finding a cure for diabetes and ensuring that people with diabetes live long, healthy lives. We develop and disseminate innovative patient therapies and scientific discoveries throughout the world. Joslin is an independent, non-profit institution affiliated with Harvard Medical School, and one of only 11 NIH-designated Diabetes Research Centers in the U.S.

For more information, visit http://www.joslin.org or follow @joslindiabetes | One Joslin Place, Boston, MA 617-309-2400

Joslin Diabetes Center

Related Diabetes Articles:

The role of vitamin A in diabetes
There has been no known link between diabetes and vitamin A -- until now.
Can continuous glucose monitoring improve diabetes control in patients with type 1 diabetes who inject insulin
Two studies in the Jan. 24/31 issue of JAMA find that use of a sensor implanted under the skin that continuously monitors glucose levels resulted in improved levels in patients with type 1 diabetes who inject insulin multiple times a day, compared to conventional treatment.
Complications of type 2 diabetes affect quality of life, care can lead to diabetes burnout
T2D Lifestyle, a national survey by Health Union of more than 400 individuals experiencing type 2 diabetes (T2D), reveals that patients not only struggle with commonly understood complications, but also numerous lesser known ones that people do not associate with diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes and obesity -- what do we really know?
Social and economic factors have led to a dramatic rise in type 2 diabetes and obesity around the world.
A better way to predict diabetes
An international team of researchers has discovered a simple, accurate new way to predict which women with gestational diabetes will develop type 2 diabetes after delivery.
The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology: Older Americans with diabetes living longer without disability, US study shows
Older Americans with diabetes born in the 1940s are living longer and with less disability performing day to day tasks than those born 10 years earlier, according to new research published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology journal.
Reverse your diabetes -- and you can stay diabetes-free long-term
A new study from Newcastle University, UK, has shown that people who reverse their diabetes and then keep their weight down remain free of diabetes.
New cause of diabetes
Although insulin-producing cells are found in the endocrine tissue of the pancreas, a new mouse study suggests that abnormalities in the exocrine tissue could cause cell non-autonomous effects that promotes diabetes-like symptoms.
The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology: Reducing sugar content in sugar-sweetened drinks by 40 percent over 5 years could prevent 1.5 million cases of overweight and obesity in the UK and 300,000 cases of diabetes
A new study published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology journal suggests that reducing sugar content in sugar sweetened drinks (including fruit juices) in the UK by 40 percent over five years, without replacing them with any artificial sweeteners, could prevent 500,000 cases of overweight and 1 million cases of obesity, in turn preventing around 300,000 cases of type 2 diabetes, over two decades.
Breastfeeding lowers risk of type 2 diabetes following gestational diabetes
Women with gestational diabetes who consistently and continuously breastfeed from the time of giving birth are half as likely to develop type 2 diabetes within two years after delivery, according to a study from Kaiser Permanente published today in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Related Diabetes Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Setbacks
Failure can feel lonely and final. But can we learn from failure, even reframe it, to feel more like a temporary setback? This hour, TED speakers on changing a crushing defeat into a stepping stone. Guests include entrepreneur Leticia Gasca, psychology professor Alison Ledgerwood, astronomer Phil Plait, former professional athlete Charly Haversat, and UPS training manager Jon Bowers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#524 The Human Network
What does a network of humans look like and how does it work? How does information spread? How do decisions and opinions spread? What gets distorted as it moves through the network and why? This week we dig into the ins and outs of human networks with Matthew Jackson, Professor of Economics at Stanford University and author of the book "The Human Network: How Your Social Position Determines Your Power, Beliefs, and Behaviours".