Research on the links between breastfeeding and cholesterol (and related disorders)

Breastfeeding in infancy and lipid profile in adolescence

This study explored whether there was an association between breastfeeding in the first three months of life with lipid profile and adiposity at around 17.5 years. The researchers included 3,261 participants in the Hong Kong Chinese birth cohort Children of 1997, adjusting for sex, birth weight, gestational weeks, parity, pregnancy characteristics, parents’ highest education, mother’s place of birth, and age at follow-up. They found that exclusive breastfeeding, but not mixed feeding at 0 to 3 months, compared with formula feeding was associated with lower total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol but not with high-density lipoprotein cholesterol at ∼17.5 years. BMI and fat percentage measured by bioimpedance did not differ by type of infant feeding.

L.L. Hui, Man Ki Kwok, E. Anthony S. Nelson et al (2019). Breastfeeding in Infancy and Lipid Profile in Adolescence. Pediatrics, Volume 143, Issue 5.

Breastmilk in infancy leading to reduced cholesterol levels in adolescence

This study of 926 preterm babies provides experimental evidence for the long-term benefits of breastmilk feeding on the risk of atherosclerosis. This study reinforces the growing body of evidence for an increased risk of cardiovascular risk factors among adolescents and adults who were artificially fed in infancy.

Singhal A et al (2004). Breastmilk feeding and lipoprotein profile in adolescents born preterm: follow-up of a prospective randomised study. Lancet 363: 1571-78

Long term benefits for cardiovascular health

A cross-sectional study of 1,532 adolescents in 10 British towns and a systematic review of studies found breastfeeding to be associated with increased mean serum total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in infancy but with lower levels in adulthood/adult life. The authors conclude that breastfeeding may have long-term benefits for cardiovascular health.

Owen CG et al (2002). Infant Feeding and Blood Cholesterol: A Study in Adolescents and a Systematic Review.Pediatrics 110: 597-608.

Related research and further reading

Research on Heart Disease and Health

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The Lancet: Increasing breastfeeding worldwide could prevent over 800,000 child deaths every year

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The impact of breastfeeding on maternal and child health: Acta Paediatrica special issue

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