Breastfeeding Cuts Cardiovascular Risk
Breastfeeding reduces the risk of a
heart attack or stroke later in life and could prevent hundreds
of thousands of deaths each year, researchers said.
Babies who are breastfed suffer
fewer childhood infections and allergies and are less prone to
obesity. British scientists have now shown that breastfeeding
and slow growth in the first weeks and months of life has a protective
effect against cardiovascular disease.
"Diets that promote more rapid
growth put babies at risk many years later in terms of raising
their blood pressure, raising their cholesterol and increasing
their tendency to diabetes and obesity -- the four main risk factors
for stroke and heart attack," said Professor Alan Lucas of the
Institute of Child Health in London.
"Our evidence suggests that the
reason why breast-fed babies do better is because they grow more
slowly in the early weeks."
Lucas said the effects of breastfeeding
on blood pressure and cholesterol later in life are greater than
anything adults can do to control the risk factors for cardiovascular
disease, other than taking drugs.
"My provisional estimate suggests
that hundreds of thousands of deaths in the western world could
be prevented by breastfeeding," he said in an interview.
"Obviously more could be prevented
if the uptake in breastfeeding was even higher."
An estimated 17 million people
die of cardiovascular disease, particularly heart attack and strokes,
each year, according to the World Health Organization.
Lucas and his colleagues compared
the health of 216 teenagers who as babies had either been breastfed
or given different nutritional baby formulas. They reported their
findings in The Lancet medical journal.
The teenagers who had been breastfed
had a 14 percent lower ratio of bad to good cholesterol and lower
concentrations of a protein that is a marker for cardiovascular
The researchers also found that,
regardless of the child's weight at birth, the faster the infants
grew in the early weeks and months of life, the greater their
later risk of heart disease and stroke.
The effect was the same for both
boys and girls.
"The more human milk you have in
the newborn period, the lower your cholesterol level is, the lower
your blood pressure is 16 years later," Lucas said.
He suspects there is a hormonal
trigger very early in life that influences infant growth and sets
the system for cardiovascular risk later in life.
Reference Source 89