A literature review on breastfeeding, head circumference and leg length
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Head circumference and leg length are two important markers for disease outcomes in later life. It has been reported that head circumference values in childhood may be closely related to the brain development and future intellectual functioning. Short leg length in childhood is suggested to have association with an increasing risk of coronary heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Given the potential childhood length and adult disease linkage, it is important to identify the determinants of childhood head circumference and leg length. Breastfeeding is suggested to be a potential postnatal factor that affects head circumference and leg length. However, some studies examining impacts of breastfeeding on leg length and head circumference in childhood reported inconsistent or null findings, indicating that the association between breastfeeding, head circumference and leg length remains controversial. Here we reviewed several studies that investigated the relationship between breastfeeding, head circumference and leg length, and in some but not all studies there was controlling for the effects of other potential early life influences, including parental height, prenatal factors and other postnatal factors on head circumference and leg length. Collectively, the illustrations on these relationships would be useful in investigating the leg length/head circumferencelater disease outcomes associations.