Breast-Feeding Confers Long-Term Heart Benefits

MONDAY Nov. 5, 2007 -- Breast-fed babies are less likely than bottle-fed infants to have certain cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors in adulthood, say U.S. researchers who analyzed two generations of participants in the Framingham Heart Study.

"Having been breast-fed in infancy is associated with a lower average body-mass index (BMI) and a higher average HDL (high-density lipoprotein, or "good" cholesterol) level in adulthood, even after accounting for personal and maternal demographic and CVD risk factors that could influence the results," study author Dr. Nisha I. Parikh, a cardiovascular fellow at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, said in a prepared statement.

Lower BMI and high HDL both protect against CVD, noted the researchers, who found that middle-aged adults who were breast-fed as infants were 55 percent more likely to have high HDL levels than to have low HDL levels, defined as less than 50 mg/dL for women and less than 40 mg/dL for men.

Average HDL levels among adults who'd been breast-fed was 56.6 mg/dL, compared with 53.7 mg/dL for adults who'd been bottle-fed. However, the researchers said this difference was not statistically different once BMI was considered in a later analysis.

Adults who were breast-fed had a lower mean BMI than those who'd been bottle-fed -- 26.1 vs. 26.9. People with a BMI higher than 25 are considered overweight and increased risk for CVD.

"This was a modest reduction in BMI [among those who'd been breast-fed], but even a modest reduction leads to a significantly reduced risk of cardiovascular disease-related death," Parikh said.

Breast-feeding was not associated with any other adult CVD risk factors, the researchers said.

The study was to be presented Monday at the American Heart Association annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about heart disease.

Posted: November 2007


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