More on the Protective Effects of Breast-Feeding

More on the Protective Effects of Breast-Feeding

Reference: Golding J, Emmett PM, Rogers IS. Does breast feeding have any impact on noninfectious, non-allergic disorders? Early Human development 1997; 49(suppl): S131-S142.

Summary: This article reviews the evidence regarding breast-feeding and a number of specific conditions. The authors begin by reviewing the extensive evidence linking breastfeeding to prolonged jaundice. The majority of studies cited support such a link though the jaundice has never been shown to have negative health effects. Infants are also at greater risk of developing late hemorrhagic disease unless supplemented with vitamin K due to low levels of the vitamin in breast milk. The authors note that studies of oral supplementation are "very promising" compared to intramuscular dosing. Neonatal necrotizing enterocolitis has been shown convincingly to be prevented by breast-feeding. The data relating to colic is mixed and no conclusion can be made about breast milk's impact on it.

Insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus is linked circumstantially to declining rates of breast-feeding according to investigations cited by the study authors. However, more study will be needed to definitively link the two. One study the authors cite found a protective effect of breast-feeding against development of childhood cancers. Two other studies since have not confirmed these results.

The paper concludes by covering the impact of breast-feeding on diseases of adulthood. Breast-feeding for less than 12 months but not more was protective against heart disease in one long-term study in Britain. Other methodologically sound studies have not been conducted to clarify the impact of breast-feeding on the cardiovascular systems of adults. Conflicting results have been reported in regard to prevention of ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. The evidence supporting breast milk's ability to prevent multiple sclerosis is weak at this point and has received only minor attention. Finally, one large study is cited which showed that breast-feeding significantly reduced the risk of all types of breast cancer, even when many other risk factors were controlled for in the analysis.

Natural Product Research Consultants, Inc.

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By E. Yarnell

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