Personal response to some of the media coverage
Unfortunately our recent paper on human milk oligosaccharides was sensationalized by some reports in the media under the headline that breastfeeding causes childhood obesity. Nowhere in our report (or in any other place) have we ever said that breastfeeding would increase risk for childhood obesity. The literature shows mixed results on the effects of breastfeeding on obesity risk, with either protective effects or null effects. No study has ever shown that breastfeeding increases risk for childhood obesity. We have previously shown that extended breastfeeding to 12 months is more protective and can even wipe out the adverse effects of early introduction to sugary beverages on obesity. We are interested in finding out why breastfeeding can be more protective in some situations and becomes more protective with longer exposure. We would like to find out what the specific factors are in breastmilk that might contribute to this explanation. In our study we examined the effects of 20 different oligosaccharides and found that some of them had an adverse effect on childhood obesity/growth and some were protective. It was a preliminary study to set the stage that demonstrates that a woman's individual mix of these compounds in breast milk might be important and we are now planning and raising funds for more detailed and larger studies of longer duration. The ultimate goal would be to identify the factors in breast milk that are more protective and then use those as an additional supplement either to boost the positive effects of breastfeeding or make available to those infants not receiving the benefits of breastfeeding.