Breastfeeding May Lower Blood Pressure
Breastfed Children Have Lower Blood Pressure Than Bottle-Fed
March 1, 2004 -- Children who were breastfed as infants may
have healthier hearts than their bottle-fed counterparts, and the benefits may
last well into adulthood researchers say.
A new study shows that breastfed babies have lower blood
pressure as children compared with others, which could lower their risk of
heart disease as adults.
Researchers say breastfeeding has been linked to a number of
health benefits in childhood, but there may also be some benefits that extend
Although previous studies have shown that breastfeeding might
protect against heart-related deaths in adulthood, researchers say other
studies have produced mixed results.
"There is some weak evidence that there is a small lowering
of blood pressure in adulthood [among children who were breastfed], but the
evidence is inconsistent," says researcher Richard Martin, MSc, MFPH, of
the University of Briston, U.K., in a news release. "No one has
investigated in a prospective study whether the association changes with
Breastfeeding May Protect Children's Hearts
In the study, published in today's rapid access issue of
Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers
tracked the effects of breastfeeding on 4,763 children in the U.K. who were
born in 1991 and 1992 and were then examined when they were about 7 1/2 years
Researchers found that children who were breastfed for any
length of time had slightly lower blood pressure than those who were
exclusively bottle-fed using baby formula. After adjusting for other factors
that might affect blood pressure, such as birth weight and mother's education,
the study showed that breast-fed children had blood pressure readings that
averaged 0.8 mm Hg lower for systolic pressure (the top number) and 0.6 mm Hg
lower for diastolic pressure (the bottom number).
"Even this small reduction may have important
population-health implications," says Martin. "A 1% reduction in
population systolic blood pressure levels is associated with about a 1.5%
reduction in all-cause mortality, equivalent to a lessening in premature death
of about 8,000 to 20,000 deaths per year in the United States and the United
In addition, the study showed that the blood pressure-lowering
effects of breastfeeding increased with the duration that the infant was
breastfed. On average, every three months of breastfeeding was associated with
a 0.2 mm Hg reduction in systolic blood pressure.
Researchers say differences in the nutrient content of breast
milk and formula may at least partially explain the blood pressure-lowering
effects found. Children who are breastfed tend to consume less sodium, which is
associated with raising blood pressure.
In addition, they say formula feeding is more likely to lead to
overfeeding and overweight babies -- two factors that are also known to raise