Breastfeeding: a natural defence against obesity?

Gabriella D'Angelo, Sara Manti, Andrea Barbalace, Ignazio Barberi


Today, obesity represents one of the most serious health problems facing both children and adults. Childhood obesity has several causes, including genetic factors, dietary habits, personal behaviours, and interaction of all of these. It often leads to adult obesity, which causes health problems including heart disease, diabetes, and even early death. Thus, many studies have investigated possible measures to prevent childhood obesity, and breastfeeding is considered an important early preventive intervention. Despite the fact that several milk formulas have been demonstrated to be safe and effective for feeding both term and premature infants, for its immunological and nutritional qualitative advantages, human milk is nowadays universally recognized as the optimal feeding choice for healthy, sick and preterm infants.
To date, it is however still unclear whether breastfeeding can prevent childhood obesity. In fact, literature data provide controversial results, probably due to several confounding factors, including maternal habits, age, level of education, lifestyle, race, parity, pregnancy complications, types of delivery, and infant health factors.
Thus, whether breastfeeding protects against obesity is still unclear. Further researches, by reducing the influence of confounding factors and improving the accuracy of the effect estimate, are needed to confirm the validity of the role of breastfeeding in reducing the risk of developing childhood overweight.
This review briefly summarizes what is known on the possible relationship between breastfeeding and prevention of obesity development.


breastfeeding; human milk; overweight; obesity; adipokines; children

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