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There are indications that excess maternal weight can affect the nutritional characteristics of breast milk, but more information is needed about these effects. (Getty Images)

Can a Mother Help 'Program' Better Health into Her Baby?

Human milk is a dynamic system, and mothers may be able to use their milk to direct the future health of their children, say ARS researchers at the Arkansas Children's Nutrition Center (ACNC) in Little Rock, AR. To better understand how excessive maternal weight changes human milk composition, ARS-funded researchers investigated how the content of oligosaccharides differed in milk produced by women with normal weight, overweight, or obesity. Oligosaccharides are complex sugars that contribute to the development of an infant's microflora and immune system.

Scientists found that milk from the sets of mothers differed in oligosaccharide content and that these sugars affected growth and body fat content. The differences are important to understand so that scientists can develop interventions to optimize human milk and promote healthy growth, including designing infant formulas that promote healthier trajectories.

Related Information

Research Project: Impact of Maternal Influence and Early Dietary Factors on Child Growth, Development, and Metabolic Health

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