Breastfeeding children promotes healthy growth and also reduces the risk of diabetes and overweight later in life, a new study has found.
According to the large-scale Danish study of small children, conducted by the Faculty of Life Sciences at the University of Copenhagen, breastfeeding lowers the levels of the growth hormones IGF-I and insulin in the blood of children due to which their growth is slightly slower. The PhD project, which is part of SKOT, followed and examined 330 healthy children at 9, 18 and 36 months.
"We can see that breastfeeding has a significant, measurable effect on the important growth regulators in the blood, IGF-I and insulin. The more times the child was breastfed, the lower the hormone levels. This suggests that the child has a slightly lower risk of becoming overweight later in childhood. At the same time, there was a correlation between how long the children were breastfed and their weight at 18 months," Anja Lykke Madsen, LIFE PhD, said.
Kim Fleischer Michaelsen from LIFE, head of the SKOT project, said that the study provides valuable knowledge about the factors affecting the early onset of obesity.
"It is well-known that children who are breastfed grow slightly more slowly than children who are given formula, and it looks as if this growth pattern is optimal because it reduces the risk of developing lifestyle diseases later in life. However, the new results from SKOT show that breastfeeding also affects levels of IGF-I and insulin at 9 months, i.e. at a time when the children are well into eating solids," Michaelsen said.
"Looking at the children's growth up to 18 months identified a number of interesting correlations which may improve our understanding of the mechanisms behind early-onset obesity. The longer the children were breastfed, the lower their weight at 18 months. It's as simple as that," he added.