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Exercised breastmilk: a kick-start for childhood obesity prevention

Project description

Exercise during lactation and childhood obesity

The increasing prevalence of childhood obesity underscores the necessity for innovative preventive strategies. One approach is monitoring a baby’s weight gain during the first three months of life. Additionally, it’s important to note that breastmilk composition can influence the risk of obesity, which underscores the importance of mothers maintaining a healthy lifestyle. However, there is a significant gap in our knowledge regarding the impact of exercise on lactation. The ERC-funded ExMilk project is dedicated to studying the effects of exercise during lactation, particularly in overweight or obese women, on breastmilk composition. Preliminary findings suggest exercise influences critical energy metabolism factors. Furthermore, the study aims to determine whether this alteration carries any implications for the risk of infant obesity.


Innovative preventive strategies are urgently required to halt the rising prevalence of childhood obesity given the inefficacy of current interventions. Mother-to-child transmission of obesity accounts for a large proportion of childhood obesity, more than what can be explained by genes. Nutrition during the first 3 months of life is crucial, with rapid weight gain in this period associated with subsequent obesity. Breastmilk is considered optimal for infant nutrition, but its composition depends on the mother’s metabolic health: the concentrations of some breastmilk compounds linked to infant obesity are associated with maternal body mass index. Maternal lifestyle factors, such as diet, can alter breastmilk composition. Little is, however, known about the effect of exercise during lactation. Exercise is a major regulator of systemic metabolism affecting multiple tissues and organs. In this ambitious, inter-disciplinary project, I will determine how exercise during lactation influences breastmilk composition in women with overweight/obesity and whether exercise-induced changes in breastmilk will influence infant obesity risk. My preliminary data show acute effects of exercise on breastmilk concentrations of adiponectin and lipid metabolites relevant for energy metabolism. In ExMilk, I will determine both acute effects and adaptations after regular exercise on a complex matrix of breastmilk compounds. By linking breastmilk data to comprehensive data for the infants, I will investigate the potential mechanisms underlying the effects of maternal exercise on infant obesity risk, mediated by changes in breastmilk composition. To reach my goals, I will perform gold-standard randomised trials and analyse biological samples from mothers and infants on multi-omics platforms. My experience in metabolomics and exercise intervention trials in reproductive-aged women will enable me to break new ground in understanding how exercise during lactation modifies infant obesity risk.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 891 529,00
7491 Trondheim

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Norge Trøndelag Trøndelag
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 1 891 529,50

Beneficiaries (1)