Background

Breastfeeding has been associated with healthier weight and carotenoid status in early life. However, the impact of breastfeeding on carotenoid status beyond infancy is unknown. The aim of the study was to investigate the relationship between skin carotenoids and breastfeeding duration, and the mediating effect of weight status and adiposity on this relationship among school-aged children.

Methods

Children between 7-12 years old completed measurements of weight status (i.e., BMI %ile). DXA was used to assess visceral adipose tissue (VAT) and whole-body adiposity (%Fat). Skin carotenoids were assessed via reflection spectroscopy using the Veggie Meter. Dietary consumption was assessed using 7-day diet records. Parents completed a retrospective survey to provide birth and breastfeeding information.

Results

Exclusive breastfeeding duration was positively correlated with skin carotenoids (r=0.23, p=0.04). %Fat (r=-0.42, p<0.01), VAT (r=-0.42, p<0.01). BMI %ile (r=-0.40, p<0.01) were inversely correlated with skin carotenoids. Exclusive breastfeeding duration was inversely correlated with VAT (r=-.23, p=0.04) and BMI %ile (r=-0.28, p=0.02), but not %Fat. VAT (indirect effect 95% CI [0.551, 6.219]) and BMI %ile (indirect effect 95% CI [0.360, 7.620]) significantly mediated this relationship, following adjustment for dietary carotenoids, total energy intake, and weight for gestational age at birth.

Conclusions

Longer duration of exclusive breastfeeding was associated with greater skin carotenoids among 7-12-year-old children, suggesting that the beneficial influence of exclusive breastfeeding for carotenoid status extends beyond infancy. These benefits were mediated by weight status and fat distribution in later childhood. The results supported the need for early interventions to support breastfeeding and to prevent childhood obesity for optimal carotenoid status in later childhood.