The impact of maternal obesity on human milk macronutrient composition: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Nutrients. 2020 Mar 27;12(4):934. doi: 10.3390/nu12040934.


Maternal obesity has been associated with changes in the macronutrient concentration of human milk (HM), which have the potential to promote weight gain and increase the long-term risk of obesity in the infant. This article aimed to provide a synthesis of studies evaluating the effects of maternal overweight and obesity on the concentrations of macronutrients in HM. EMBASE, MEDLINE/PubMed, Cochrane Library, Scopus, Web of Science, and ProQuest databases were searched for relevant articles. Two authors conducted screening, data extraction, and quality assessment independently. A total of 31 studies (5078 lactating women) were included in the qualitative synthesis and nine studies (872 lactating women) in the quantitative synthesis. Overall, maternal body mass index (BMI) and adiposity measurements were associated with higher HM fat and lactose concentrations at different stages of lactation, whereas protein concentration in HM did not appear to differ between overweight and/or obese and normal weight women. However, given the considerable variability in the results between studies and low quality of many of the included studies, further research is needed to establish the impact of maternal overweight and obesity on HM composition. This is particularly relevant considering potential implications of higher HM fat concentration on both growth and fat deposition during the first few months of infancy and long-term risk of obesity.

Keywords: Systematic review; adiposity; body mass index (BMI); human milk composition; infant health; macronutrient; maternal obesity.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity
  • Body Mass Index
  • Breast Feeding
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Milk, Human / chemistry*
  • Nutrients / analysis*
  • Obesity, Maternal*
  • Pregnancy