BREAST MILK LOWERS BLOOD PRESSURE
Statue at the Hospital
on Margarita Island, Venezuela
CONTRIBUTED BY PB, DISCIPLE OF GURURASA
Being breastfed as a baby has a beneficial impact on blood pressure, a study suggests. Researchers found it was as good for children's blood pressure as exercise and cutting salt intake is for adults.
And the longer a baby was breastfeed, the more impact it had on the child's blood pressure.
The study, of more than 2,000 children by the University of Bristol, is published in the journal rchives of Disease in Childhood.
The researchers studied children from Denmark and Estonia to try to establish whether there was a relationship between breastfeeding and a range of conditions which can lead to coronary heart disease.
There did not appear to be any impact on some of the conditions examined. But children who had been exclusively breastfed as babies did seem to have lower blood pressure.
The pattern could be seen in both countries, irrespective of the differences in diet and social conditions between the two.
After taking account of children's differing heights, weights and stages of development, the researchers found babies who had been exclusively breastfed for at least six months had a systolic blood pressure reading on average 1.7mm Hg lower than those who had not.
By comparison cutting salt is thought to reduce adults' systolic blood pressures by around 1.3mm Hg and physical activity by around 0.7mm Hg.
The impact of breastfeeding on blood pressure also appeared to be more marked the longer babies were breastfed.
The researchers said their findings suggested a direct causal link between breastfeeding and lower blood pressure in older children.
The reason why breast milk may provide better protection against high blood pressure is unknown.
But researchers suspect that long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are present in breast milk, but not in most formula feeds, may play a key role in healthy development.
Breastfeeding is also thought to help protect babies against infection.
Research suggests it may also reduce the risk of osteoporosis and ovary cancer in mothers.
The UK has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in Europe. A third of mothers never attempt it.
Belinda Phipps, chief executive of the National Childbirth Trust (NCT), said: "This research adds to a growing body of evidence which shows that breastfeeding helps to reduce systolic blood pressure in children.
"It also gives mothers who decide to breastfeed more firm evidence that breastfeeding is the healthiest way to feed a baby.
long-term impact of breastfeeding on the public health of the population in
the UK is known to be significant - if more mothers were enabled to breastfed
their children, thousands of deaths could be prevented in the future."