Breastfeeding has impact on future BMI

June 19, 2020

Breastfeeding has many benefits and a new report indicates that it could helpful in reducing body mass index (BMI) in newborns at greater genetic risk for overweight and obesity.

Breastfeeding has a number of benefits for newborns from providing antibodies to promoting the bond between mother a child. A report in PLoS Genetics indicates that exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) for at least 5 months could be helpful for reducing body mass index (BMI).1

Investigators used a sample of 5266 children from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. They examined the role of breastfeeding, looking at both exclusivity and duration, and its effect on modulating BMI increase that is attributable to genetic risk score from birth to 18 years of age. The genetic risk score was made of 25 non-overlapping single nucleotide polymorphisms that are linked with pediatric BMI and 69 variants linked to adult BMI.

They found that in the high genetic susceptible group EBF to age 5 months reduced BMI by 1.14 kg/m2 in boys aged 18 years. This compensates a 3.9-decile genetic risk score increase. Among the girls aged 18 years, EBF to age 5 months was found to decrease BMI by 1.53 kg/m2 and that compensates a 7.0 genetic risk score increase. They found that EBF delayed the age at adiposity peak and adiposity rebound. Exclusive breastfeeding to 3 months of age or non–exclusive breastfeeding was tied to a significantly diminished impact on decreasing BMI growth.

The researchers concluded that EBF to age 5 months had a significant effect on reducing BMI in children who had genetic risks. They said that their results indicate that interventions in early childhood to reduce the risk of overweight and obesity could be important.


1. Wu Y, Lye S, Dennis C, Briollais L. Exclusive breastfeeding can attenuate body-mass-index increase among genetically susceptible children: a longitudinal study from the ALSPAC cohort. PLoS Genet. 2020:16(6):e1008790. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1008790