The Effect of Breastfeeding on Cardiorespiratory Risk Factors in Adult Life
Alicja R. Rudnicka, PhD, Christopher G. Owen, PhD and David P. Strachan, MD
Division of Community Health Sciences, St George’s, University of London, London, United Kingdom
OBJECTIVE. Nutrition in the first weeks of life may program disease risk in adulthood. We examined the influence of initial infant feeding on cardiorespiratory risk factors in adulthood.
PATIENTS AND METHODS. A total of 9377 persons born during 1 week in 1958 in England, Scotland, and Wales were followed-up periodically from birth into adulthood. Infant feeding was recorded from a parental questionnaire at 7 years old as never breastfed, breastfed partially or wholly for <1 month, or breastfed for >1 month. Height; waist circumference; hip circumference; waist/hip ratio; body mass index; blood pressure; forced expiratory volume; total, high-density, and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol; triglycerides; hemoglobin A1c; fibrinogen; fibrin D-dimer; C-reactive protein; von Willebrand factor; and tissue plasminogen activator antigen were measured at 44 to 45 years of age.
RESULTS. Breastfeeding for >1 month was associated with reduced waist circumference, waist/hip ratio, von Willebrand factor, and lower odds of obesity compared with formula feeding after adjustment for birth weight, prepregnancy maternal weight, maternal smoking during pregnancy, socioeconomic position in childhood and adulthood, region of birth, gender, and current smoking status. Infant feeding status was not associated with other cardiorespiratory risk factors after adjustment, except for lower fibrinogen and C-reactive protein levels in women.
CONCLUSIONS. The inverse associations of breastfeeding for >1 month with measures of central obesity and inflammatory markers in the current study are small and of little public health importance. Although there was no substantial long-term protective effect of breastfeeding for >1 month on other cardiorespiratory risk factors in adult life, further studies with contemporaneous data on exclusive breastfeeding are needed to confirm these findings.
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