The Breast Is Still Best
New research shows that young adults who were breastfed as infants for three months or longer are significantly less likely to experience the kind of chronic inflammation that’s associated with cardiovascular disease and metabolic disorders, such as the metabolic syndrome.
Of course, the choice to breastfeed or not is a personal one, and many factors come into play as women attempt to balance the demands of new motherhood, jobs, and other pressures. But this latest research provides further evidence that human breast milk is still the best possible food to nurture newborns and infants. Breastfeeding can be challenging, but making the effort can have longterm benefits for your child.
The new research, conducted by scientists at Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis was especially convincing, because some of the data came from siblings, one of whom was breastfed, while the other was not. Essentially, the investigators examined data from the U.S. National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, including parent surveys, and blood samples providing measurements of c-reactive protein (CRP). CRP is a reliable marker that indicates ongoing, low-level inflammation of the sort that accompanies heart disease and other metabolic disorders.
“This study shows that birthweight and breastfeeding both have implications for children's health decades later,” said Molly W. Metzger, PhD, assistant professor at the Brown School, in a press release. “Comparing the long-term effects of breastfeeding to the effects of clinical trials of statin therapy, we find breastfeeding to exert effects that are as large or larger.”
You read right. Investigators concluded that breastfeeding can be as effective as drug therapy with statins in terms of reducing one’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease. No co-pay required.
T. W. McDade, M. W. Metzger, L. Chyu, G. J. Duncan, C. Garfield, E. K. Adam. Long-term effects of birth weight and breastfeeding duration on inflammation in early adulthood. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2014; 281 (1784): 20133116 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2013.3116