Breastfeeding May Boost Future Heart Health

Score another round for breastfeeding.  A new study has found that breastfeeding may provide a child with lifelong cardiovascular health benefits.

The Study
Researchers looked at more than 1,500 adolescents and also reviewed studies of cholesterol levels in infants, children, adolescents and adults, comparing breast-fed babies with formula-fed babies.  While they found no direct correlation between infant feeding patterns and cholesterol levels in childhood and adolescence, cholesterol levels were lower in adults who had been breastfed as babies.

So what does this mean?  Basically, researchers believe early exposure to breast milk may program the body to metabolize fat more efficiently, resulting in lower blood-cholesterol levels and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.   

Breast is Best
Breastfeeding is booming, and the medical community couldn’t be more pleased.  More American women are breastfeeding their babies than ever before, reports a new survey of about 400,000 mothers.

For years the American Academy of Pediatrics has championed breast milk, hailing it “the perfect food for toddlers.”  Now nearly three out of four new moms agree.  According to the survey, published in the journal “Pediatrics,” about 70 percent of newborns in 2001 were breastfed regularly.  Half of those infants took breast milk for the fist six months, a significant increase over past decades.

Doctors are pleased by the current surge in breastfeeding, citing its many benefits:

  •  Breast milk is uniquely tailored to meet a baby’s nutritional needs for the first six months of life.

  • Most babies digest breast milk more easily than formula.

  • According to several studies, breast-fed babies have fewer allergies, intestinal problems, ear infections and other common childhood problems than their formula-fed brethren.  They also have lower rates of diabetes and asthma, chronic illnesses that often persist into adulthood.

  •  Women who breastfeed are known to have lower rates of certain types of breast and ovarian cancers and fewer hip fractures later in life.

Further Reading
Thirsty for more breast-milk facts?  Check out these features: