Skip to content

Health & Baby

Breastfeeding Cuts Adult Cholesterol

1 Month of Mother's Milk May Lower Life Risk of Heart Disease
Font Size
A
A
A
By
WebMD Health News

May 13, 2004 -- Just one month of breastfeeding may cut a person's lifetime risk of heart disease.

The amazing finding comes from data collected 13 to 16 years ago in a study of premature babies. The original study was trying to learn the best way to feed preterm infants. Some of the kids were breastfed --for about four weeks -- while others were formula fed.

Now those kids are teenagers. Blood tests of 216 of these near-adults show that those who were breastfed have lower cholesterol than those were fed formula. They also have lower CRP blood levels, a marker of inflammation associated with heart disease.

"Our findings suggest that breast milk feeding has a major beneficial effect on long-term cardiovascular health," write Atul Singhal, MD, of the U.K. MRC Childhood Nutrition Research Center, London, and colleagues. Their report appears in the May 15 issue of The Lancet.

The researchers say a 10% reduction in cholesterol levels -- like that seen in the teens that were breastfed as infants -- would be expected to cut their risk of heart disease by 25%. That's a lot. Adults who go on a low-fat diet lower their cholesterol by 3% to 6%.

Earlier studies have shown that breastfeeding also results in lower blood pressure, lower risk of obesity, and lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

It's not yet clear that these findings -- from premature babies -- apply to full-term kids as they grow up. But Singhal and colleagues say available evidence suggests that the findings do indeed apply to all children. Moreover, they predict that the benefits of early breastfeeding will increase as the teens grow into adulthood. To test this prediction, they'll keep track of them as they mature.

Too Much Early Nutrition Bad?

Could speedy infant growth -- spurred by nutrition-rich formula feeding -- increase a person's chances of heart disease and diabetes in adulthood? That's what Singhal and colleague Alan Lucas, MD, suggest in a Lancet editorial.

Their theory is that breastfeeding gives an infant the nutrition it needs -- but no more. Nutrition-rich formula, Singhal and Lucas suggest, makes children grow too much, too fast.

Baby's First Year Newsletter

Because every week matters, get expert advice and facts on what to expect in your baby's first year.

Today on WebMD

mother on phone holding baby
When you should call 911.
Mother with baby
Unexpected ways your life will change.
 
baby acne
What’s normal – and what’s not.
baby asleep on moms shoulder
Help your baby get the sleep he needs.
 

mother holding baby at night
ARTICLE
mother with sick child
QUIZ
 
baby with pacifier
VIDEO
Track Your Babys Vaccines
TOOL
 
Baby Napping 10 Dos And Donts
Slideshow
Woman holding feet up to camera
Article
 
Father kissing newborn baby
Article
baby gear slideshow
Slideshow