HealthDay News — Gut microbiota at ages 3 to 4 months may contribute to the protective effect of breastfeeding against overweight, according to a study published online June 4 in JAMA Pediatrics.

Jessica D. Forbes, PhD, from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, and colleagues recruited a subset of 1087 infants from the prospective CHILD pregnancy cohort to characterize the correlation between breastfeeding, microbiota, and risk of overweight during infancy. Fecal microbiota were characterized by 16S ribosomal RNA sequencing at 3 to 4 months (from 996 infants) and/or 12 months (from 821 infants).

The researchers found that in covariate-adjusted models, infants who were exclusively formula-fed at 3 months had increased risk of overweight (adjusted odds ratio, 2.04; 95% confidence interval, 1.25 to 3.32). After further adjustment for microbiota features characteristic of formula feeding at 3 to 4 months, including higher overall richness and enrichment of Lachnospiraceae, the correlation was attenuated (adjusted odds ratio, 1.33; 95% confidence interval, 0.79 to 2.24). Of the 579 infants who were exclusively breastfed, 30.9% received formula as neonates; this supplementation was correlated with lower relative abundance of Bifidobacteriaceae and higher relative abundance of Enterobacteriaceae at 3 to 4 months but did not affect the risk of overweight.

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“These results identify important areas for future research and distinguish early infancy as a critical period when transient gut dysbiosis may lead to increased risk of overweight,” the authors write.

One author disclosed financial ties to AstraZeneca.

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