A recent study by Thomas McDade and colleagues from the Northwestern University, IL, USA, suggests that lower birth weight babies breastfed less than three months, or not at all, are more likely as young adults to have higher levels of chronic inflammation.
Systemic inflammation plays a major pathogenic role in cardiovascular (CV) diseases, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes mellitus. C-reactive protein (CRP) is now regarded as a sentinel biomarker of systemic inflammation and has been implicated in the pathogenesis of many chronic diseases. This includes CV diseases, and high systemic levels of this protein are consistently associated with an increased risk for CV illness.
This study is perhaps the first to document an association between birth weight and CRP in sibling comparison models. Overall, birth weights above 2.5 kg, and breastfeeding greater than or equal to three months was significantly associated with lower CRP.
Of note, the study not only linked birth weight and breastfeeding duration to CRP levels in adulthood, but also found striking racial, ethnic and education disparities. Educated mothers were more likely to breastfeed and to give birth to larger babies, as were Whites and Hispanics.
As per an eurekalert press release, Dr. Alan Guttmacher, Director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Bethesda, MD, USA, stated that these “results suggest that breast feeding may reduce a major risk factor for heart disease, well into adulthood.”
According to the authors of this study, postnatal feeding decisions may provide additional opportunities for intervention, particularly given the low rates of extended breastfeeding in the USA and the UK.