Breast milk carbohydrates may prime babies for later obesity

By Nathan Gray contact

- Last updated on GMT

Breast milk carbohydrates may prime babies for later obesity

Related tags: Breast milk, Milk

Obese mothers may be paving the way for later obesity in their children through the transmission of ‘non-nutritious carbohydrates’ in breast milk, say researchers.

The study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition​, notes that while previous research has shown that maternal obesity strongly affects a baby's risk for becoming overweight, but until now scientists have been unsure about how this risk of fatness is transmitted.

Led by corresponding author Professor Michael Goran from the University of Southern Carolina, the new research identified variations in complex carbohydrates found in breast milk - called human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) – that are linked to variations in infant growth and obesity.

The study is the first to identify variations in HMOs as a possible protective or risk factor for obesity, said the team.

“Typically we think of obesity risk kicking in after weaning -- the timing of introduction to solid foods, early exposures to sugary beverages. Clearly there is something going on before weaning even in babies who are exclusively breastfed,”​ said Goran.

"The infant's first exposure to nutrition sets the stage either for increased or decreased risk of obesity,”​ commented first author Tanya Alderete - who noted that because they cannot be digested, HMOs accumulate in the colon and can act as prebiotics that play a role in shaping a baby's gut microbiome.

"How the gut microbiome develops will have a long-term influence on obesity and health risk,"​ said Goran. "These compounds that are not being digested go straight into the infant's gut and act as prebiotics. They act as fuel for microbes in the gut and help them grow and become diverse."

The team noted that while genetics play a role in HMO composition, the factors that influence variation in the composition of breast milk are not yet known – adding that a mothers diet likely has a role.

"HMOs are the third most abundant component in human breast milk,"​ said Lars Bode, a study co-author from the University of California San Diego and president-elect of the International Society for Research in Human Milk and Lactation. "The concentrations of these complex sugars are higher than the concentrations of all human breast milk proteins combined."

"To our knowledge, there are no studies examining how HMOs are affected by the mothers' diet,"​ said Alderete. "It would be very interesting if dietary sugar or fat consumption were found to be related to HMOs. That is something we hope to explore in future studies."

Study details

The study examined 25 mother-infant pairs and looked at breast milk and infant measures at ages one month and six months to test whether differences in the composition of human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) correlate with infant growth and body composition.

Goran and his colleagues defined breastfeeding as not using infant formula and noted that some babies may have been introduced to solid food, which would have contributed to growth and body composition.

The study revealed that the specific mix of HMOs in breast milk can make a big difference – suggesting that the composition of individual breast milk may be more important in predicting obesity than even the mother's obesity and her weight gain during pregnancy.

"At 6 months of age, higher breast milk levels of LNFPII [lacto-N-fucopentaose II] and DSLNT [disialyl-lacto-N-tetraose] were each associated with approximately 1 pound of greater fat mass,"​ revealed Alderete, who added that other HMOs were protective at 6 months.

“Increased amounts of a HMO called LNFPI [N-fucopentaose I] in breast milk was associated with about a 1-pound lower infant weight and fat mass,”​ she said.

The team noted that the study could not determine cause and effect between HMO composition and obesity, partially because it did not have any measures beyond 6 months of age – adding that further research, including longer studies, are now needed.

"Ultimately what we would like to be able to do is identify which of the HMOs are most important for obesity protection and then use that as a supplement that can be given to the breastfeeding infant and added to infant formulae,"​ said Goran – noting that current infant formula does not contain any HMOs.

Source: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.3945/​ajcn.115.115451
“Associations between human milk oligosaccharides and infant body composition in the first 6 mo of life”
Authors: Tanya L Alderete, Chloe Autran, et al

Related topics: Science

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3 comments

mother's milk and baby's growth of disease ..

Posted by Dr.Klaus J. Seelig,

why are paragraphs originally given by the commentator not left ? And why do your Auditors alter today's date to 1.Jan 1970 at 01:00 AM ?

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extrachomosomal inheritance of disease "Metabolic Syndrome"

Posted by Dr.Klaus J. Seelig,

There will be many different molecules to be found which are same in breast milk and related to mother's diet and baby's future liniency to develop a disease.
The food any mother eats is transformed into the food for the breastfed child, with all good and bad ingredients which the mother was exposed to including- as well estalished- diverse sugars of C3_ of forest-type-plants or of C4_ as Savannah-type-plants will appear in the lipids of the feed for the baby. Yet also toxics as from Alcohol, Tobacco and Drugs will have their effects on Baby's habits and furher desires and dependencies as well as -if perpetuated- on early onset of (otherwise only known as adult's)-diseases like Non-Alcohol-Fatty Liver-Disease (after high corn-syrup/fructose/chocolate addicted-consumption).
The common cause may be found if searched for with the forensic acuity and practices of IR-MS looking after the special traces of the real underlying causes.
They may require time, laboratory and special intelligence and interest, but will not be shown by a simple fast and cheaper test-kit like for polymerase on GMO.
... Of course they can only and effectively be prevented, if the differentiation can later also be made by selecting the feed for the baby,infant, toddler and kindergarden-child accordingly. This in turn will only be possible if (by free choice or law) openly declared feed-origin of the product in the super-markets or via net ordered- as of grass-fed. or corn-fed production. But here of course the Commodity-interests interfere with the Health-cost- "Collaterals". And if then further analysis will come to show increased local variances due to regionally variant usage of conventional or "New Age" Energy-production & their in-evitable undeclared effusions formerly unknown and then declared as Innocent or non-immediately-harmful- then perhaps the costs however high will not match with the needed results for healthy and unimpaired growth and development.
To show that it was not due to he genetics, or give the poor mother the impression that it was the genetic drift from the forefathers here or there will not be as helpful as teaching on proper choosing - as well as possible- at the shelf and demanding for better informing declaration on the true product-origination.
Legally fixing cheapest & even health-endangering mass-usage of C4_products as in any amounts compatible with health and stable growth of GNP and Peace among the generations is certainly a path to increase the Metabolic Syndrome as a Pandemic Experimental Experience of unforeseen Costs and Consequences.

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absolute bs!

Posted by Magda Pieters RD,

How on earth can the perfect food NATURE made for babies be defective or cause/be blamed for obesity?! It is other food, carbs&sugar that is given to babies apart from breast milk that causes obesity in infants - Even the mother's diet & blood glucose levels during pregnancy.

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