Breastfeeding by HIV+ women can have many health benefits for the child, contrary to popular perception. A population-based prospective cohort study by a team of Australian and South African scientists last week found that breastfeeding lowered the risks for childhood obesity for both HIV exposed and unexposed children.
The association between breastfeeding and lowered childhood obesity is well-established. This research was focused on investigating the same practice in an African population with high HIV prevalence. The findings were based on data collected from HIV-negative children from ages 7 to 11 years in rural South Africa. The team used body mass index, fat, and BP to check obesity. Factors like the mother’s age at the time of delivery, HIV status, and education were also considered. Their focus was breastfeeding duration.
Breastfeeding beyond 6 months halved the risks of being overfat and overweight. Furthermore, children with obese mothers were also far more likely to be overweight and overfat. The researchers concluded that with lowered mother-to-child transmission risks, breastfeeding should be considered to counter the rising obesity levels in many African populations which also have high HIV prevalence.