Breast-feeding may lower children's blood pressure later in life

Mothers who breast-feed their babies today may be lowering their children’s blood pressure later, said researchers in a report in this week’s issue of the journal Circulation ( Circulation. 2004;109:1259–1266[Abstract/Free Full Text]).

Richard M. Martin, MSc, MFPH, and colleagues from the Division of Child Health at the University of Bristol in Britain examined 7276 singleton 71/2-year-old children born at term in 1991 and 1992. Complete data were available for 4763 of the children. The blood pressures of the children who had been breast-fed were, on average, 1.2 mm Hg lower than those of children who had never been breast-fed. The differences decreased but remained statistically significant in models that controlled for social, economic, maternal, and physical characteristics. The differences were the same whether the breast-feeding was done part-time or exclusively. The researchers found that for every 3 months of breast-feeding, the children had a 0.2-mm Hg reduction in systolic blood pressure.

"Even this small reduction may have important population-health implications, because an increased mortality risk is observed across the blood pressure distribution and not just above threshold levels. A 1% reduction in population systolic blood pressure levels is associated with an 1.5% reduction in all-cause mortality, equivalent to a lessening in premature mortality of 8000 and 2000 deaths per year in the United States and United Kingdom, respectively . . . the wider promotion of breast-feeding is a potential component of the public health strategy to reduce population levels of blood pressure," the researchers wrote.

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