The study, which used data from two generations of participants, showed that middle-aged adults who were breastfed as infants were 55 per cent more likely to have high HDL (“good” cholesterol) level than low HDL cholesterol.
Even after adjustment for various factors that could potentially influence the results, babies who were breastfed had higher average HDL cholesterol levels in adulthood.
The breastfed infants also had a significantly lower mean BMI in adulthood: 26.1 kg/m2 vs. 26.9 kg/m2 for bottle-fed infants. Adults with a BMI higher than 25 are considered overweight and are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease.
“This was a modest reduction in BMI, but even a modest reduction leads to a significantly reduced risk of cardiovascular disease-related death,” said study author, Nisha I. Parikh of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Mass, reported at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2007.
Breastfeeding was not associated with any other adult cardiovascular disease risk factor. Parikh said she got the idea for the study after returning from maternity leave.
“The benefits of breastfeeding in infancy and childhood are well established. But I wondered if it were as helpful for health in adulthood,” she said.