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Research Says Being Overweight Before Pregnancy Affects The Quality Of Breastmilk

Excess weight or obesity has always been detrimental to physical health, and according to recent research, pre-pregnancy obesity can also have an impact on the quality of breast milk. Earlier studies have established the impact of obesity during pregnancy on breastmilk composition.

Breastmilk from obese mothers has a pro-inflammatory fatty acid profile and decreased concentrations of fatty acids and carotenoids, which play an acute role in neuro and early visual development. Obese pregnancy can also increase the chances of Type-2 diabetes in children, in a later phase of life.

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But, for the first time, LSU Health New Orleans researchers report, published in PLOS ONE, establishes that contents of breast milk can differ depending on the mother's weight not only after conceiving but also at the time of conception. And in turn, it can impact the growth and development of infants feeding on breastmilk.

Breast milk contains pro-inflammatory proteins like tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) and interleukin-six (IL-6), as well as hormones like insulin and leptin, and anti-inflammatory polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as omega-3 (DHA) and omega-6 (EPA). But, the reason and the way the interaction influence infant growth has been unknown.

The research team from New Orleans wanted to discover the interrelationships between these blood compounds and breast milk in women post-delivery. And if these had any relation with BMIs of the mother.

Moreover, it has also been noted earlier, that breastmilk can impact child obesity, but interlink between these two had also not been clearly stated. According to Melinda Sothern, Ph.D., Professor of Behavioral & Community Health Sciences at LSU Health New Orleans School of Public Health "Childhood obesity rates in the US have increased significantly in recent decades,"

Ashe adds, "Although many studies have shown that breastfeeding may be protective against excessive weight gain during early life, we do not fully understand why."

The study was conducted on infants between 4-8 weeks and their respective mothers (33 postpartum women). During this investigation, researchers compared polyunsaturated fatty acids, hormones, and inflammatory markers to infant growth measurement such as weight, length, head circumference, and percent fat mass.

They deciphered that regardless of maternal pre-pregnancy BMI, pro-inflammatory qualities of breast milk can impact height, weight, and other infant growth measures. And it was also concluded that infants born to women with overweight or obesity have less responsive growth to breast milk.

Henry Nuss, Ph.D., Assistant Research Professor of Behavioral & Community Health Sciences at LSU Health New Orleans School of Public Health and lead author says, "Infants who are born to mothers of unhealthy weight status may be metabolically programmed to have a less favourable growth response to breast milk.”

Obesity can lead to critical ailments such as heart diseases, Type 2 diabetes, and bone diseases; With 650 million adults suffering from it, obesity is a worldwide issue which needs to be addressed on priority. Furthermore, considering that weight status can be potentially risky and have adverse growth outcomes on her child, women of childbearing age and planning pregnancy should be cautious about their weight.

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