Breastfeeding and Risk of Metabolic Syndrome in Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review

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The beneficial effect of breastfeeding on individual components of the metabolic syndrome in children and adolescents has been reported, but it is unknown if there is an association between being breastfed and metabolic syndrome as a whole.

Research aim:

This systematic review was performed to assess quality and strength of evidence for the association between being breastfed and the development of metabolic syndrome in children and adolescents.


Articles were obtained from searches using PubMed and Embase databases, as well as from secondary searches through reference lists. Study quality was assessed using a three-level quality rating system.


Of 11 studies reviewed, 7 found a protective association between breastfeeding and metabolic syndrome and 4 found no association. There was no clear dose–response relationship between duration of breastfeeding and metabolic syndrome risk and insufficient evidence to demonstrate an added effect of being exclusively breastfed. The overall quality of the articles was moderate. In general, lower quality articles found no significant association, whereas higher quality articles found a significant association.


Our review demonstrated a limited amount of high-quality research on the relationship between being breastfed and development of metabolic syndrome in children and adolescents. The evidence presented in this review suggests that being breastfed may be protective against metabolic syndrome, but further research with improvements in study design, such as improved measurement of breastfeeding and the use of prospectively collected data, will improve our understanding of this relationship.

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