While breastfeeding could be the best first food for a baby and provide numerous health benefits, it may not protect all kids from obesity, suggests a new study.
Components in the milk of obese and lean mothers differ and therefore its safeguarding ability on offspring varies from woman to woman, said the researchers who reviewed relevant breastfeeding studies.
"Recent studies show that factors such as whether a child's mother is obese, the quality of her milk and the socio-economic conditions a baby is born into also have an influence," Jessica Woo and Lisa Martin from the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in the US.
As obesity is notoriously difficult to treat, the research is increasingly geared towards preventive strategies. One such method is the advocacy of breastfeeding, as human milk contains all the nutrients and immunity support to help a baby develop optimally.
The researchers noted that more than 80 observational studies done in the past 20 years all concluded that the odds of an infant who drank breast milk becoming obese is 12 -24% less than for drinkers of formula milk. This protection increases the longer and the more exclusively someone was breastfed.
But Woo and Martin suggest that there is more to the development of obese children than just the type of milk they consumed as babies.
The review showed that biological researchers increasingly study the link between maternal obesity and severely overweight children.
Human milk studies, work in probiotics, and research on the impact of maternal characteristics also highlight the protective value of having the right micro-organisms in the gut. Such micro-organisms seem to influence what and how much people eat, the researchers pointed out.
They believe that educating mothers about healthy lifestyle habits could appreciably reduce obesity in children, and also increase the wellbeing of women.
The review appeared in the Springer's journal Current Obesity Reports.