Breastfeeding Improves Glucose Tolerance and Cholesterol Levels

Breastfeeding Improves Glucose Tolerance And Cholesterol Levels

Archives of the Diseases of Childhood, 2000; 82: 248-252

It is generally accepted that breast feeding has a beneficial effect on the health of infants and young children. However, recently, studies have shown that the method of infant feeding is also associated with cardiovascular disease and its risk factors in adult life.

This study examined the association between the method of infant feeding in the first weeks after birth and glucose tolerance, plasma lipid profile, blood pressure, and body mass in adults aged 48-53 years.

The 625 subjects were born at term in Amsterdam, during a period of severe famine and war (1944-45). Information was available about infant feeding at the time of discharge from hospital (avg. 10 days), and at least one blood sample after an overnight fast.

Subjects who were bottle fed had a higher plasma glucose concentrations after standard oral glucose tolerance tests than those who were exclusively breast fed. They also had a higher plasma low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol concentration, a lower high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol concentration, and a higher LDL/HDL ratio.

Therefore, researchers suggest that exclusive breast feeding has a protective effect against some risk factors for cardiovascular disease in later life, including better glucose tolerance and improved cholesterol levels.

Comment: For development of an infant’s best physiology and immunity, infants should be breastfed for a minimum of 9 months, but preferably for 12 to 15 months. It is the single best thing a mother can do for her baby’s health. Breast milk contains rich nutritional factors that give a child the best start in its life that creates a healthy foundation for its entire lifetime. Commercial baby formulas simply cannot come close to the complex, life-nourishing fluid called mother’s milk.

It is a major tragedy that companies that sell formula actually discourage breast feeding. These commercial formulas typically contain toxic ingredients including hydrogenated oil, MSG and chemicalized ingredients – setting the infant up for allergies, poor digestion, poor development and chronic disease both immediately and later in life. It is estimated that every year substituting commercial formulas for breast milk kills over 1.5 million babies. The above study shows that even as an infant, when optimal guidelines for food are not followed, the major negative metabolic consequence appears to be mediated through a disruption in insulin levels which causes undesirable changes in glucose and cholesterol levels.

If a woman is interested in breastfeeding but needs to work, she can use a breast pump or express her milk by hand, then save the milk in a container (or freeze it) for use by the infant later. This is far superior to the so-called convenience of using commercial baby formulas.