Influence of exclusive breastfeeding on hippocampal structure, satiety responsiveness, and weight status

Ryan C. Higgins, Kathleen L. Keller, Jane C. Aruma, Travis D. Masterson, Shana Adise, Nicole Fearnbach, Wendy M. Stein, Laural K. English, Bari Fuchs, Alaina L. Pearce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Longer exclusive breastfeeding duration has been associated with differences in neural development, better satiety responsiveness, and decreased risk for childhood obesity. Given hippocampus sensitivity to diet and potential role in the integration of satiety signals, hippocampus may play a role in these relationships. We conducted a secondary analysis of 149, 7–11-year-olds (73 males) who participated in one of five studies that assessed neural responses to food cues. Hippocampal grey matter volume was extracted from structural scans using CAT12, weight status was assessed using age- and sex-adjusted body mass index (%BMIp85), and parents reported exclusive breastfeeding duration and satiety responsiveness (Children's Eating Behaviour Questionnaire). Separate path models for left and right hippocampus tested: (1) the direct effect of exclusive breastfeeding on satiety responsiveness and its indirect effect through hippocampal grey matter volume; (2) the direct effect of hippocampal grey matter volume on %BMIp85 and its indirect effect through satiety responsiveness. %BMIp85 was adjusted for maternal education, yearly income, and premature birth while hippocampal grey matter volume was adjusted for total intercranial volume, age, and study from which data were extracted. Longer exclusive breastfeeding duration was associated with greater bilateral hippocampal grey matter volumes. In addition, better satiety responsiveness and greater left hippocampal grey matter volume were both associated with lower %BMIp85. However, hippocampal grey matter volumes were not associated with satiety responsiveness. Although no relationship was found between breastfeeding and child weight status, these results highlight the potential impact of exclusive breastfeeding duration on the hippocampal structure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere13333
JournalMaternal and Child Nutrition
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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