Breastfeeding Unlocks Hidden Health Secret In Infants


Research from Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District (NBMLHD) and University of Sydney (USYD) researchers has reaffirmed the health benefits of breastfeeding while uncovering new evidence that shows its influence in infant intestinal metabolism.

Woman breastfeeding child

Breastfeeding has many benefits for metabolic health

The beneficial impact breastfeeding has on a child’s development is well known, with breast milk containing all the right nutrients to help develop a baby’s brain, eyesight and speech.

Breastfeeding also programs a child’s metabolic health, reducing the risk of obesity, diabetes, and the metabolic syndrome later in life.

These health benefits have largely been observational and the study by NBMLHD and USYD researchers aims to obtain a deeper mechanistic understanding of the direct effects of breastfeeding on metabolic organs at a cellular level.

The study, which was first published through BMC Medicine, compared intestinal gluconeogenesis, which is a metabolic pathway resulting in the body making its own glucose, between breastfed and formula fed infants.

Comprehensive profiling revealed enhanced intestinal gluconeogenesis in breastfed infants.

Several critical genes involved in gluconeogenesis, such as PCK2, fructose bisphosphatase 1 and glucose 6 phosphatase were found to be increased in breastfed samples.

Professor of Paediatrics at NBMLHD Professor Ralph Nanan and author of the study says increased intestinal gluconeogenesis in breastfed babies may help protect them from diseases like obesity and diabetes later in life.

“Intestinal gluconeogenesis (IGN) starts shortly after birth. It helps regulate energy balance, appetite and how sensitive the body is to insulin. This may explain why breastfed babies have better metabolic health at a cellular level,” explains Ralph.

“While the research supports the long-term metabolic health benefits of breastfeeding, more detailed analysis is required to explain the mechanisms behind enhanced IGN in infants to create more support in encouraging breastfeeding in infants.”

Full findings of the research have been published in journal, BMC Medicine.

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