Nav: Home

Breast milk hormones found to impact bacterial development in infants' guts

May 04, 2016

A new University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus study finds that hormones in breast milk may impact the development of healthy bacteria in infants' guts, potentially protecting them from intestinal inflammation, obesity and other diseases later in life.

The study, published Monday in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, examines the role of human milk hormones in the development of infants' microbiome, a bacterial ecosystem in the digestive system that contributes to multiple facets of health.

"This is the first study of its kind to suggest that hormones in human milk may play an important role in shaping a healthy infant microbiome," said Bridget Young, co-first author and assistant professor of pediatric nutrition at CU Anschutz. "We've known for a long time that breast milk contributes to infant intestinal maturation and healthy growth. This study suggests that hormones in milk may be partly responsible for this positive impact through interactions with the infant's developing microbiome."

Researchers found that levels of insulin and leptin in the breast milk were positively associated with greater microbial diversity and families of bacteria in the infants' stool. Insulin and leptin were associated with bacterial functions that help the intestine develop as a barrier against harmful toxins, which help prevent intestinal inflammation. By promoting a stronger intestinal barrier early in life, these hormones also may protect children from chronic low-grade inflammation, which can lead to a host of additional digestive problems and diseases.

In addition, researchers found significant differences in the intestinal microbiome of breastfed infants who are born to mothers with obesity compared to those born to mothers of normal weight. Infants born to mothers with obesity showed a significant reduction in gammaproteobacteria, a pioneer species that aids in normal intestinal development and microbiome maturation.

Gammaproteobacteria have been shown in mice and newborn infants to cause a healthy amount inflammation in their intestines, protecting them from inflammatory and autoimmune disorders later in life. The 2-week-old infants born to obese mothers in this study had a reduced number of gammaproteobacteria in the infant gut microbiome.

"I eagerly anticipate our follow-up studies to know whether these early results will help us understand what factors help make up a healthier immune system in infants born to obese mothers over the first year of life," said Jed Friedman, corresponding author and professor of pediatrics at CU Anschutz. "What happens if you restore these bacteria in the infant born to an obese mother remains an open question."

To examine the role of breast milk hormones, leptin and insulin, researchers analyzed the bacteria present in stool samples from 30 two-week-old infants who were exclusively breastfed -18 infants born to normal weight mothers and 12 born to obese mothers. The researchers not only analyzed what bacteria were growing, but the metabolism of the bacteria that were active in the infants' intestines.

"Just like children learn language and social cues as they grow, their digestive system learns how to regulate itself," said co-first author Dominick Lemas, now an assistant professor at the University of Florida. "What we've found is that hormones in breast milk are linked to the development of infants' microbiome, potentially having long-term effects on children's intestinal and autoimmune health."

Young and Lemas hypothesize that human milk hormones affect the microbiome by binding to specific receptors in the infants' intestines. These hormones may stimulate the body to produce proteins, called anti-microbial peptides, which kill off certain types of bad bacteria and may stimulate infant intestinal cells to secrete molecules that allow good bacteria to flourish.
-end-
Funding for this study was provided by the American Diabetes Association and the National Institutes of Health. Funding for this study was provided by the American Diabetes Association and the National Institutes of Health. Additional authors include Peter R. Baker II, Angela C. Tomczik, Taylor K. Soderborg, Teri L. Hernandez, Becky A. de la Houssaye, Charles E. Robertson, Michael C. Rudolph, Diana Ir, Zachary W. Patinkin, Nancy F. Krebs, Stephanie A. Santorico, Tiffany L. Weir, Linda A. Barbour and Daniel N. Frank.

University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

Related Obesity Articles:

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.
More Obesity News and Obesity Current Events

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

Erasing The Stigma
Many of us either cope with mental illness or know someone who does. But we still have a hard time talking about it. This hour, TED speakers explore ways to push past — and even erase — the stigma. Guests include musician and comedian Jordan Raskopoulos, neuroscientist and psychiatrist Thomas Insel, psychiatrist Dixon Chibanda, anxiety and depression researcher Olivia Remes, and entrepreneur Sangu Delle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...