Evaluation of leptin in breast milk, lactating mothers and their infants

Eur J Clin Nutr. 2010 Sep;64(9):972-7. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2010.105. Epub 2010 Jun 30.


Background/objectives: Leptin is present in human milk, but it is not clear what the relationship between breast milk (BM) leptin levels and maternal and infant serum leptin concentrations is. The objective of this study was to evaluate the leptin concentration in BM and to investigate its relationship with infants' and mothers' anthropometric parameters and with serum leptin concentration in breast-fed (BF) infants and lactating mothers.

Subjects/methods: We enrolled 36 adequate for gestational age healthy, exclusively BF, term infants aged <6 months. Leptin concentration in serum and BM was determined by radioimmunoassay (RIA) test (human-leptin-RIA-sensitive, Mediagnost). Infants' and mothers' weights, lengths and body mass indexes (BMI) were measured.

Results: The median leptin concentration was 3.42 ng/ml (interquartile range (IR): 2.65) in BF infants' serum, 3.02 ng/ml (IR: 2.85) in mothers' serum (n=17) and 0.51 ng/ml (IR: 0.34) in BM (n=24). BM leptin concentrations were significantly lower than serum BF infant (P<0.001) and maternal (P<0.001) leptin levels. Infant serum leptin concentration correlated positively with infant weight (r=0.437, P=0.008) and BMI (r=0.561, P=0.004). Mother serum leptin levels correlated positively with weight (r=0.755, P<0.001) and BMI (r=0.661, P=0.007). No correlations were found between BM leptin and serum leptin concentrations in BF infants and mothers.

Conclusions: We confirmed the presence of leptin in BM at a lower concentration than that found in infant and lactating mother serum. We observed a positive correlation between serum leptin levels in BF infants and their growth parameters.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Body Weight / physiology*
  • Breast Feeding
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Infant, Newborn / blood*
  • Infant, Newborn / growth & development
  • Lactation / metabolism
  • Leptin / analysis*
  • Leptin / blood
  • Leptin / metabolism
  • Male
  • Milk, Human / chemistry*
  • Milk, Human / metabolism
  • Mothers


  • Leptin