Breastfeeding babies offers them long-term heart-health benefits

November 05, 2007

ORLANDO, Nov. 5 - Breastfed babies are less likely to have certain cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors in adulthood than their bottle-fed counterparts, researchers reported at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2007.

"Having been breastfed 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," said Nisha I. Parikh, M.D., M.P.H., author of the study and a cardiovascular fellow at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Mass.

A lower BMI and high HDL both protect against CVD. The study, which used data from two generations of participants in the Framingham Heart Study, showed that middle-aged adults who were breastfed as infants were 55 percent more likely to have high HDL cholesterol than to have low HDL cholesterol. Low HDL was defined as levels of less than 50 mg/dL for women and less than 40 mg/dL for men. HDL is known as "good" cholesterol because high levels help protect against heart disease and stroke.

After adjustment for factors that could potentially influence the results (such as use of blood pressure-lowering medication, maternal education, maternal smoking, maternal body mass index, etc.), breastfed offspring had higher average HDL cholesterol levels in adulthood: 56.6 mg/dL vs. 53.7 mg/dL for the bottle-fed participants (though this was not significantly different once participant BMI was considered in later analysis).

The breastfed infants also had a significantly lower mean BMI in adulthood: 26.1 kg/m2 vs. 26.9 kg/m2 for bottle-fed infants. Adults with a BMI higher than 25 are considered overweight and are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease.

"This was a modest reduction in BMI, but even a modest reduction leads to a significantly reduced risk of cardiovascular disease-related death," Parikh said.

Breastfeeding was not associated with any other adult CVD risk factor.

Parikh said she got the idea for the study after returning from maternity leave. "The benefits of breastfeeding in infancy and childhood are well established. But I wondered if it were as helpful for health in adulthood," she said.

While other studies have hinted that breastfeeding is protective against several CVD risk factors in adulthood, several prior studies were limited by a lack of adjustment for factors that could potentially influence the results, Parikh said.

By using data from the Framingham Health Study, in which these risk factors are directly measured at regular intervals, Parikh said her team overcame this problem.

The study included 393 mothers enrolled in the Framingham Offspring Study and 962 of their offspring participating in the Framingham Third Generation Study. The average age of the offspring was 41 and 54 percent were women.

Mothers reported whether they breastfed each of their children and for how long using a mailed questionnaire. Overall, 26 percent of the offspring were breastfed.

"The findings show that early environmental exposures have long-term health effects," Parikh said. "They also underscore that atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease are life-course diseases that have their roots early in life."
-end-
Co-authors are Shih-Jen Hwang, Ph.D.; Erik Ingelsson, M.D., Ph.D.; Emelia J. Benjamin, M.D., Sc.M.; Caroline S. Fox, M.D., M.P.H.; Ramachandran S. Vasan, M.D.; and Joanne M. Murabito, M.D., Sc.M.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute funded the study.

Statements and conclusions of study authors that are presented at American Heart Association scientific meetings are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect association policy or position. The American Heart Association makes no representation or warranty as to their accuracy or reliability.

American Heart Association

Related Cardiovascular Disease Articles from Brightsurf:

Changes by income level in cardiovascular disease in US
Researchers examined changes in how common cardiovascular disease was in the highest-income earners compared with the rest of the population in the United States between 1999 and 2016.

Fighting cardiovascular disease with acne drug
Researchers from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg and Stanford University have found the cause of dilated cardiomyopathy - a leading cause of heart failure - and identified a potential treatment for it: a drug already used to treat acne.

A talk with your GP may prevent cardiovascular disease
Having a general practitioner (GP) who is trained in motivational interviewing may reduce your risk of getting cardiovascular disease.

Dilemma of COVID-19, aging and cardiovascular disease
Whether individuals should continue to take angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers in the context of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is discussed in this article.

Air pollution linked to dementia and cardiovascular disease
People continuously exposed to air pollution are at increased risk of dementia, especially if they also suffer from cardiovascular diseases, according to a study at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden published in the journal JAMA Neurology.

New insights into the effect of aging on cardiovascular disease
Aging adults are more likely to have - and die from - cardiovascular disease than their younger counterparts.

Premature death from cardiovascular disease
National data were used to examine changes from 2000 to 2015 in premature death (ages 25 to 64) from cardiovascular disease in the United States.

Ultrasound: The potential power for cardiovascular disease therapy
In the current issue of Cardiovascular Innovations and Applications volume 4, issue 2, pp.

Despite the ACA, millions of Americans with cardiovascular disease still can't get care
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death for Americans, yet millions with CVD or cardiovascular risk factors (CVRF) still can't access the care they need, even years after the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Excess weight and body fat cause cardiovascular disease
In the first Mendelian randomization study to look at this, researchers have found evidence that excess weight and body fat cause a range of heart and blood vessel diseases (rather than just being associated with it).

Read More: Cardiovascular Disease News and Cardiovascular Disease Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.