April 23, 2014 12:04 pm

Breastfed babies have better heart health as adults, study suggests

A woman feeds her baby with a bottle in Caracas on June 18, 2013.

Leo Ramirez, Getty Images

TORONTO – Our parents made us drink milk as kids but hopefully they had us start as newborns: new research suggests that breastfed babies have better heart health as adults.

The breastfed babies appeared to have lower levels of a protein linked to heart disease – that could be what’s at play in explaining why these babies reaped the health benefits of breastfeeding even when they grew out of diapers.

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The study, conducted by researchers at Northwestern University in Illinois, is based on about 7,000 people who were followed for 15 years.

“The longer we follow this group, the more we will start to see greater heart attacks and diabetes in those individuals who were not breastfed,” lead researcher Dr. Thomas McDade told the Daily Telegraph.

“This is a major public health issue. If we can raise breastfeeding rates, it will pay dividends in health care savings in the future,” he said.

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McDade even says that breastfeeding babies is about as potent as relying on drug therapies, like statins, for adults.

He zeroed in on CRP levels – or C-reactive protein – which can be measured in the bloodstream. If it appears in higher amounts, there’s inflammation in your body. Higher levels are also a tell-tale sign of heart disease.

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If babies were breastfed for less than three months, they tended to have higher levels of the CRP protein.

Weight was also an issue – lighter newborns had higher levels of the protein. Each pound of additional birth weight lowered CRP concentration by about five per cent. Between three and 12 months of breastfeeding predicted CRP levels that were 20 to 30 per cent lower.

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Breastfeeding has also been linked to lowering allergy risk, ear infections and trips to the hospital for babies. Other studies have suggested that it also helps with lowering obesity.

McDade’s study was published Tuesday night in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

carmen.chai@globalnews.ca

© Shaw Media, 2014

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