Breastfeeding linked to major long-term heart health benefits

Breastfeeding may have long-term cardiovascular health benefits in mothers, particularly in cases where the breastfeeding took place over a longer period of time. The findings were revealed at the recent European Society of Endocrinology ECE 2019 event. According to the study, women who breastfed at some point in their lives had 'significantly lower' heart disease risk later in life, with that benefit amplified in women who breastfed over a longer duration.

Past research has highlighted a number of potential health benefits experienced by women who breastfed offspring, including lower body weights, better blood sugar regulation, reduced risks of select cancers, and reduced postpartum depression risk. The hormone prolactin may be the factor behind these benefits — levels rise when a woman is breastfeeding.

The latest study looks at the potential health benefits breastfeeding may have on cardiovascular disease, which remains the number one cause of death among women globally.

After adjusting for other potential factors, including smoking history and body weight, researchers found postmenopausal women who had breastfed at some point in their lives had 'significantly lower' heart disease risk indicators and overall heart disease risk compared to women who hadn't breastfed.

Women who breastfed for longer periods of time were found to have experienced 'even more significant' protective health effects. Additional research is necessary to determine the precise cause of this breastfeeding and cardiovascular health link, but assuming prolactin is the factor behind it, the study may reveal yet another reason to choose breastfeeding over formula.