Background: Multiple studies have suggested that breast-feeding can prevent obesity, but the evidence remains inconclusive. The concentrations of specific constituents of human milk, such as adipokines, may play a role in this relationship, and these have rarely been considered. We assessed the role of adiponectin and leptin in human milk in childhood overweight.
Methods: Between November 2000 and November 2001 all women delivering at the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics at the University of Ulm, Germany were invited to participate in the study together with their healthy newborns. Milk samples were collected 6 weeks postpartum. Adiponectin and leptin levels were determined by commercially available ELISA. Active follow-up was performed at age 12 and 24 months.
Results: Of the 674 breast-fed children, 56 (8%) were overweight at the age of 2 years. Median adiponectin and leptin levels in milk were 10.9 ng/mL and 174.5 pg/mL, respectively. Adjusted odds ratio for overweight at the age of 2 was 1.6 (95% confidence interval = 1.0-2.6) per unit increase of log adiponectin and 1.1 (0.8-1.5) per unit increase of log leptin. Among children who were breast-fed for at least 6 months, adjusted odds ratios were 2.1 (1.1-4.2) per unit increase of log adiponectin, and 1.1 (0.7-1.6) per unit increase of log leptin.
Conclusion: High levels of adiponectin in maternal milk may be a risk factor for childhood overweight.