As part of the Irish government’s “Growing Up in Ireland” study, the researchers analyzed the weight and BMI (body mass index) of 7,798 nine-year old Irish children. They also studied the BMI and various lifestyle factors of the children’s parents, including whether the mother breastfed the child, and if so, how long.
Their results found the incidence of obesity by nine years old was reduced by an astounding 51% when the baby was breastfed for 26 weeks or more.
For those children breastfed for between 13 and 25 weeks, the incidence of obesity was reduced by 38%.
In the final analysis, breastfeeding a child for over four weeks corresponded to a drop in obesity incidence.
The possible reasons for the connection, the researchers hypothesized, is related to the content of the breast milk versus that of synthetic formula, as well as the possible behavioral factors of breastfeeding.
Other research found that babies fed synthetic formulas grew faster during the first few years than breastfed babies. This, the researchers suggested, illustrated differences in metabolism between breastfed and formula-fed babies. This again points to content differences between formula and mother’s milk.
What are the content differences? Breast milk contains numerous immunoglobulins, numerous vitamins and minerals, nucleic acids, and probiotics.
Another piece to this puzzle becomes clearer from probiotic research, which has found that probiotics increase nutrient absorption, even out blood glucose spikes, reduce constipation, reduce cholesterol levels and provide CLA (conjugated linoleic acid). All of these have been linked with weight reduction or improved BMI status.
It is no surprise that breastfeeding results in a healthier child. In a study from the same researchers last year (2011) of 8,226 children, the researchers found that the children who were breastfed scored 8.67% higher in reading testing and 7.42% higher on their mathematics test scores by their ninth year.
Decades of research has established that brain development and healthy metabolism go hand in hand. A breastfed child is healthier because they have received a full dose of mama’s probiotics along with other important nutrients. Our probiotics form a significant part of our immune system.
McCrory C, Layte R. Breastfeeding and risk of overweight and obesity at nine years of age. Soc Sci Med. 2012. doi:10.1016/j.soccimed.2012.02.048
McCrory C, Layte R. The effect of breastfeeding on children’s educational test scores at nine years of age: results of an Irish cohort study. Soc Sci Med. 2011 May;72(9):1515-21.
Adams C. Probiotics – Protection Against Infection: Using Nature’s Tiny Warriors To Stem Infection and Fight Disease. Logical Books, 2009.