A group of Galician researchers has revealed for the first time the mechanism by which prolonged breastfeeding reduces the likelihood of obesity in adulthood. The studies, conducted in mice, show the benefits of a sustained maternal diet over time and how it affects energy balance throughout life, even on a high-calorie diet.
“We are very satisfied,” says Luisa Seoane, leader of the study, which has been published in the journal Nature Metabolism, “because we have for the first time described the mechanism by which breastfeeding protects against the development of obesity and side effects in adulthood in the long term,” explains he.
The study, whose first authors are Verónica Peña, Cintia Folgueira and Silvia Barja, is part of a line of research initiated in 2010 by a research project funded by the Galician Health Service (Xunta de Galicia). It was developed by researchers from CIBER of Physiopathology of Obesity and Nutrition (CIBEROBN), the Singular Center for Research in Molecular Medicine and Chronic Diseases of USC (CiMUS) and the Santiago de Compostela Health Research Institute (IDIS) and has international collaboration Groups from Lübeck (Germany) and Lille and Marseille (France).
How does it work. The authors found that puppies with delayed weaning, beginning at four weeks versus three, were less likely to be obese as adults, even when exposed to a high-fat diet.
This phenomenon can be explained by the release of a protein called fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) from the liver, which can reach the hypothalamus, the region of the brain that plays a key role in controlling the liver, according to the researchers who developed it Consumption and use of energy in the organism.
Once in the hypothalamus, FGF21 activates dopamine receptors, a neurotransmitter with multiple biological functions. This in turn leads to increased activity of brown fat, a fat that burns calories, and therefore leads to higher energy expenditure.
The developmental benefits of breastfeeding have been studied extensively, but as Dr. Luisa Seoane explains, this work describes “for the first time the existence of a mechanism altered by breastfeeding with lasting effects up to death affecting both peripheral organs, such as the liver or
adipose tissue and the brain.
“It will certainly lead to new research in developmental biology,” says an analytical article on the study published by the journal. And it is the first time that the mechanism responsible for the beneficial effects of breastfeeding has been described, representing an unprecedented achievement in the field of research. Despite this, the researchers have indicated that “however, future research is needed to determine through clinical trials whether these effects also occur in humans and to better understand the long-term metabolic benefits of breastfeeding.”