Breastfeeding cuts adult heart disease risk, study suggests

Breastfeeding may greatly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease well into adulthood, research suggests.

Breastfeeding: may protect infants against future heart disease (photo: Jason Heath Lancy)
Breastfeeding: may protect infants against future heart disease (photo: Jason Heath Lancy)

A US study found that infants who were breastfed for under three months and weighed under 6.2lbs at birth had a raised the risk of chronic inflammation in adulthood.

These adults had higher levels of CRP, a key biomarker for inflammation. Chronic inflammation is linked to the development of atherosclerosis, a key factor in many vascular diseases.

Researchers from Northwestern University in Illinois examined data from 6,951 adults aged 24 to 32  taking part in a longitudinal study on adolescent health. They measured blood samples to determine CRP levels and compared these between adults.

The researchers found that for each pound of extra birth weight, CRP levels fell 5%. Similarly, those who had breastfed for three to 12 months had CRP levels 20-30% lower than those not breastfed for this length of time.

'Major risk factor'

Researchers said breastfeeding helps immune development and affects metabolic processes that influence obesity, which can in turn impact adult CRP levels.

Dr Alan Guttmacher, director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Maryland, US, said: ‘This research helps us understand and appreciate the importance of breastfeeding, especially for low-weight infants. The results suggest that breastfeeding may reduce a major risk factor for heart disease, well into adulthood.’

Lead author Professor Thomas McDade from Northwestern University said the research made a ‘strong case’ for investing in interventions early in life to reverse social disparities in adult health.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register

Already registered?

Sign in

Follow Us:

Just published

Free learning for GPs and nurses returning because of coronavirus

Free learning for GPs and nurses returning because of coronavirus

MIMS Learning has launched a free learning plan for GPs and nurses who are returning...

Almost 4,000 GPs rejoin GMC register as COVID-19 deaths surge

Almost 4,000 GPs rejoin GMC register as COVID-19 deaths surge

Around 3,800 GPs have rejoined the medical register barely a week after the government...

Prime minister Boris Johnson and health secretary Matt Hancock infected with COVID-19

Prime minister Boris Johnson and health secretary Matt Hancock infected with COVID-19

Prime minister Boris Johnson and health and social care secretary Matt Hancock are...

'Lovely' Essex GP feared to be first UK doctor to die from COVID-19

'Lovely' Essex GP feared to be first UK doctor to die from COVID-19

An Essex GP is feared to have become the first UK doctor to die after being infected...

How PCNs are adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic

How PCNs are adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic

Primary care networks (PCNs) are hosting virtual training sessions and re-writing...

Guidance updated for pregnant healthcare staff in coronavirus outbreak

Guidance updated for pregnant healthcare staff in coronavirus outbreak

All GPs who are pregnant should have the choice to stop work in patient-facing roles...