Breastfeeding helps children at high risk of obesity

22 July 2020

For those at risk of becoming obese, being exclusively breastfed as an infant can help ward off weight gain later in life, a study in PLOS Genetics has found.

Researchers investigated whether the BMI-reducing effects of breastmilk can counteract the effects of genetic variations that increase the odds a person will become obese. They looked at genetic data and the BMI of more than 5000 children from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children.

In 18-year-old boys whose genes put them in the high-risk category for obesity, exclusive breastfeeding until five months reduced their BMI by 1.14 kg/m2. In girls, the BMI reduction was 1.53 kg/m2.

Breastfeeding exclusively until three months, or a mix of breastmilk and formula, did not lead to the same weight reduction in high-risk individuals.

Co-author Dr Laurent Briollais said while genes influenced our risk of obesity, the study showed this was not irreversible.

Image credit | iStock