Breastfeeding prevents heart disease

Breastfed boys and girls less likely to develop heart disease in later life

Men and women who were breastfed as babies are less likely to develop heart disease later in life.

A study of over 17,000 individuals found that those who were breastfed exclusively for the recommended six months had lower cholesterol than those only fed on formula.

The study’s authors are now urging women to breastfeed, pointing out it could save up to 5,000 lives every single year.

Dr Chris Owen from the University of London, which conducted the research, says: ‘This study provides further evidence that breast feeding has long-term health benefits.

‘Apart from all its other effects, it appears to lower blood cholesterol in later life. The results also suggest that formula feeds should match the context of breast milk as closely as possible – any attempt to reduce the fat content of formula feeds could be counter-productive.’

Meanwhile, Professor Peter Weissberg from the British Heart Foundation which funded Owen’s paper, adds: ‘The study suggests that what we choose to feed our babies partially ‘programmes’ their cholesterol levels in later life – with breastfed babies ending up with slightly lower levels than formula fed infants.

‘We might suspect that this would have a knock-on effect on the risk of heart attack, but the interplay between many risk factors – which weren’t included in this study – means we can’t yet draw this conclusion. What is clear is that our infancy and childhood can have life-long effects on our bodies’ biology.’

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