Nav: Home

Breastfeeding, antibiotics before weaning and BMI in later childhood

June 13, 2016

Breastfeeding in children who had received no antibiotics before weaning was associated with a decreased number of antibiotic courses after weaning and a decreased body mass index (BMI) later in childhood, according to an article published online by JAMA Pediatrics.

The mechanisms by which breastfeeding for a long duration may reduce the frequency of infections and lower the risk of being overweight for children remain unclear. The benefits of breastfeeding likely may be due to the development of the intestinal microbiota, which is dependent on the infant's diet. Antibiotic use may be a modifying factor.

The study by Katri Korpela, Ph.D., of the University of Helsinki, Finland, and coauthors included 226 Finnish children who had participated in a probiotic trial from 2009 to 2010. Breastfeeding information was collected in a questionnaire from mothers at the start of the trial. The current retrospective study involved antibiotic purchase records. Almost 97 percent of children were breastfed for at least one month and the average duration of breastfeeding was eight months.

The authors report that among 113 children with no antibiotic use before weaning, breastfeeding was associated with a reduced number of postweaning antibiotic courses and decreased body mass index later in life. Among the 113 children who used antibiotics in early life (during breastfeeding and through four months after weaning), the effect on postweaning antibiotic use was only borderline significant and the effect on BMI disappeared, according to the results.

Study limitations include the authors cannot exclude the possibility that some of the observed effects of breastfeeding could be due to other factors. They also acknowledge exclusion criteria could reduce the generalizability of their results.

"The protective effect of breastfeeding against high body mass index in later childhood was evident only in the children with no antibiotic use during the breastfeeding period. The results suggest that the metabolic benefits of breastfeeding are largely conveyed by the intestinal microbiota, which is disturbed by antibiotic treatment," the study notes.

(JAMA Pediatr. Published online June 13, 2016. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2016.0585. Available pre-embargo to the media at Editor's Note: The study contains funding/support disclosures. Please see article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, etc.

Editorial: What is the Link?

In a related editorial, Giulia Paolella, M.D., of the University of Milan, Italy, and Pietro Vajro, M.D., of the University of Salerno, Italy, write: "Studies on early-life antibiotic exposure (ELAE) and subsequent childhood obesity have yielded inconsistent results. ... Korpela and colleagues add to what we know about the link between prevention of obesity, breastfeeding duration, ELAE and microbiota changes. However, like most investigations on this topic, their well-designed study is not exempt from inevitable and evitable limitations, as the authors themselves acknowledge."

(JAMA Pediatr. Published online June 13, 2016. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2016.0964. Available pre-embargo to the media at

Editor's Note: Please see article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, etc.
Media Advisory: To contact corresponding author Katri Korpela, Ph.D., email To contact corresponding editorial author Pietro Vajro, M.D., email

The JAMA Network Journals

Related Antibiotics Articles:

Antibiotics promote resistance on experimental croplands
Canadian researchers have generated both novel and existing antibiotic resistance mechanisms on experimental farmland, by exposing the soil to specific antibiotics.
Why antibiotics fail
UCSB biologists correct a flaw in the way bacterial susceptibility to these drugs is tested.
Fungi have enormous potential for new antibiotics
Fungi are a potential goldmine for the production of pharmaceuticals.
Antibiotics can boost bacterial reproduction
The growth of bacteria can be stimulated by antibiotics, scientists at the University of Exeter have discovered.
Last-line antibiotics are failing
The ECDC's latest data on antimicrobial resistance and consumption shows that in 2015, antibiotic resistance continued to increase for most bacteria and antibiotics under surveillance.
More Antibiotics News and Antibiotics 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

Teaching For Better Humans
More than test scores or good grades — what do kids need to prepare them for the future? This hour, guest host Manoush Zomorodi and TED speakers explore how to help children grow into better humans, in and out of the classroom. Guests include educators Olympia Della Flora and Liz Kleinrock, psychologist Thomas Curran, and writer Jacqueline Woodson.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#535 Superior
Apologies for the delay getting this week's episode out! A technical glitch slowed us down, but all is once again well. This week, we look at the often troubling intertwining of science and race: its long history, its ability to persist even during periods of disrepute, and the current forms it takes as it resurfaces, leveraging the internet and nationalism to buoy itself. We speak with Angela Saini, independent journalist and author of the new book "Superior: The Return of Race Science", about where race science went and how it's coming back.