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Friday, June 10, 2011

The Relationship of Breast-feeding, Overweight, and Asthma in Preadolescents

Breast feeding has many advantages.  It has been shown to improve the physical and emotional health of both the mother and the infant.  The longer a baby has breast milk, the better the health outcomes.

Children who are breastfed for shorter periods of time (less than 3 months) seem to be at increased risk of being overweight once they get older.

Children who are overweight have an increased risk for developing asthma.

Our research question: Are children who were only breast fed for a short amount of time AND who were overweight more likely to have asthma?  If so, what environmental and genetic traits did being overweight and having asthma share?


  • Children who were not breastfed or only breastfed for a short amount of time (less than 3 months) were slightly more likely to have asthma at age 8-10 years.

  • Children who were not breastfed or breast fed for less than 3 months were more likely to be overweight by age 8-10years.

  • Children who were not breast fed or breast fed for less than 3 months AND were overweight had the highest risk of asthma.  This was especially true in boys and in children whose mothers have asthma. 

  • Being overweight may be a consequence of little or no breastfeeding and may increase the risk of asthma in susceptible children (those with a family history of asthma for example).

  • This association may be due to a hormone called Leptin. Leptin plays a role in controlling food intake, which helps maintain good body weight. Leptin may also affects a child’s immune response.  Levels of Leptin are higher in children who are breast fed. This may lead to better weight control and less asthma.

  • Obesity in a mother is one of the strongest risk factors for a child being obese.  It is also associated with difficulty breastfeeding.  However, a mother being obese does not increase the risk of a child having asthma.

Conclusion: Doctors and nurses have long been encouraging women to breastfeed for as long as they can.  This study gives doctors, nurses, teachers and prenatal educators more reasons to continue to help and encourage mothers to breastfeed as long as they can.

To read the published article, go to: The relationship of breast-feeding, overweight, and asthma in preadolescents.Mai XM, Becker AB, Sellers EA, Liem JJ, Kozyrskyj AL. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2007 Sep;120(3):551-6. Epub 2007 Jun 21