Galician scientists find why prolonged breastfeeding protects against obesity

Galician scientists find why prolonged breastfeeding protects against obesity

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prolonged breastfeeding protects the child against obesity in adulthood, even if you are exposed to a high-fat diet. This is due to the release of a protein from the liver that, upon reaching the lateral hypothalamus, activates dopamine receptors, which increases energy expenditure. This is evidenced by the study by the team of Galician researchers from the CIBER of Physiopathology of Obesity and Nutrition (CIBEROBN), the Singular Center for Research in Molecular Medicine and Chronic Diseases of the USC (CiMUS) and the Santiago Health Research Institute (IDIS) led by Luisa Seoane, director of the IDIS Endocrine Physiopathology research group, and Professor Rubén Nogueiras, from the Molecular Metabolism group of the CiMUS-USC and that has the collaboration of international groups from France and Germany.

This scientific milestone, which publishes the journal “Nature Metabolism”opens the door to new clinical studies that allow a better understanding of the long-term metabolic benefits of breastfeeding.

“There was already epidemiological data suggesting that breastfeeding could have a protective effect against obesity. Now we, for the first time, have described, in a study with experimental animals, the mechanism by which breastfeeding protects against the development of obesity. And something very important too, that this protective effect is permanent over time”, he explains. louis seoane.

The study also shows that rodent offspring subjected to prolonged lactation they maintain this protective effect even if they are exposed to high-calorie diets. “In fact, when this protective effect is most evident is when the mouse is exposed to high-fat diets,” says the scientist.

According to Seoane, this protective phenomenon of prolonged breastfeeding can be explained by the release of a protein known as fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) from the liver, which can reach the hypothalamus, the brain region that plays a key role in the control of the consumption and the 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, causes a higher energy expenditure. “It is not that animals with prolonged lactation eat less and therefore have less weight. Intake is identical in the models of extended lactation and standard lactation, what is affected is energy expenditure”, he details.

Long-lactating mice have higher energy expenditure

The researchers found that the animals those who were breastfed for one week hadeven in adulthood, greatly increased levels of the protein FGF21. In the case of humans, this would be equivalent to three months of lactation in addition to the six recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), according to the Galician researcher.

If it is validated in clinical studies that these protective effects of lactation also occur in humans, the finding could constitute a valuable weapon to prevent and treat obesitywhich the WHO identifies as a chronic disease and which, according to the 2020 European Health Survey, is suffered by 16.5% of men and 15.5% of women aged 18 and over in Spain.

The Seoane team is already working in collaboration with the CHUS pediatric group and with the Maternal Milk Bank to to see if these mechanisms that have been observed altered in the animal model are also altered in children who have prolonged lactation. “Once we validate it, we understand that finding in children a profile of all these signals altered by breastfeeding in a positive way will be able to tell us whether or not they are at risk of developing obesity; they can be early biomarkers that allow intervention at very early stages of life. On the other hand, these signals that we found affected in the animal model could constitute in the future therapeutic targets on which to act pharmacologically to counter obesity” Explain.

Seoane’s group is waiting for the calls for project concessions from the Carlos III Institute of Madrid and the Galician Agency for Innovation to be resolved. develop a study on genes that are affected in lactation prolonged breastfeeding. Galician researchers have identified, using transcriptomics techniques, more than one hundred genes, which opens new avenues to find future therapies against obesity.

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