Lower birth weight, less breastfeeding linked to adult inflammation and disease

April 22, 2014, Northwestern University
Image: Wikipedia.

Individuals born at lower birth weights as well as those breastfed less than three months or not at all are more likely as young adults to have higher levels of chronic inflammation that contributes to cardiovascular disease, according to a new Northwestern University study.

Based on data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, Northwestern researchers evaluated how levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a key biomarker of inflammation, linked back to and breastfeeding duration for nearly 7,000 24- to 32-year-olds.

The research not only showed both lower birth weights and shorter duration of breastfeeding predicted higher CRP levels in young adults, and thus higher disease risk. The research also found dramatic racial, ethnic and education disparities. More educated mothers were more likely to breastfeed and to give birth to larger babies, as were whites and Hispanics.

The data points to the importance of promoting better birth outcomes and increased duration of breastfeeding to affect public health among adults. Such awareness could make a difference in eroding the intractable in adult health outcomes associated with inflammation, according to the study.

"The findings about breastfeeding and birth weight are particularly illuminating," said Thomas McDade, professor of anthropology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and faculty fellow, Institute for Policy Research, at Northwestern and lead author of the study.

"The rates for many adult diseases completely mirror rates of and low breastfeeding uptake and duration," he said.

McDade also is the director of the Laboratory for Human Biology Research and of Cells to Society (C2S): The Center on Social Disparities and Health, which is part of Northwestern's Institute for Policy Research.

Breastfeeding is known to provide nutritional and immunological support to infants following delivery and affects immune development and metabolic processes related to obesity—two potential avenues of influence on adult CRP production.

"This research helps us understand and appreciate the importance of , especially for low-weight infants," said Alan Guttmacher, M.D., director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. "The results suggest that breast feeding may reduce a major risk factor for heart disease, well into adulthood."

An innovation of the study is the use of sibling comparison models, which control for many of the factors that may bias previous estimates of the impact of birth weight and breastfeeding on adult health outcomes. In these models, sibling differences in birth weight and sibling differences in breastfeeding duration are used to predict differences in adult CRP across siblings.

Each pound of additional birth weight predicted a CRP concentration that was 5 percent lower. Three to 12 months of breastfeeding predicted CRP levels that were 20 to 30 percent lower compared with individuals who were not breastfed.

In fact, had the same or greater effect as drug therapies that reduce CRP in , as measured in previous clinical studies.

"The research makes a strong case about the need to invest in interventions early in life to reverse the relatively intractable social disparities we see in adult health in the United States," McDade said.

Explore further: Low birth weight, less breastfeeding create later health risks

More information: The study, "Long-term effects of birth weight and breastfeeding duration on inflammation in early adulthood," will be published online April 23 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. rspb.royalsocietypublishing.or … .1098/rspb.2013.3116

Related Stories

Low birth weight, less breastfeeding create later health risks

April 14, 2014
Lower weight babies and babies who aren't breastfed or not breastfed for long are at greater risk of developing chronic inflammation and related health problems later in life, according to a new study.

Proof that antidepressants and breastfeeding can mix

April 10, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—University of Adelaide researchers have found that women on antidepressant medication are more successful at breastfeeding their babies if they keep taking the medication, compared with women who quit antidepressants ...

In-hospital formula use deters breastfeeding

February 14, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—When mothers feed their newborns formula in the hospital, they are less likely to fully breastfeed their babies in the second month of life and more likely to quit breastfeeding early, even if they had ...

Some racial disparities in childbirth more environmental than genetic

March 13, 2014
A new study investigating racial disparities in birth outcomes shows that contrary to some theories Vitamin D is unlikely to play a role in differences in preterm birth and low birth weight between African-Americans and whites.

CDC: Breastfeeding rates increasing in US

August 1, 2013
(HealthDay)—More than three-quarters of infants begin breastfeeding, and rates at six and 12 months have increased since 2000, according to a report published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Breastfeeding associated with lower risk of rheumatoid arthritis, new study finds

January 6, 2014
In a new study of over 7,000 older Chinese women published online today in the journal Rheumatology, breastfeeding – especially for a longer duration – is shown to be associated with a lower risk of rheumatoid arthritis ...

Recommended for you

Novel genomic tools provide new insight into human immune system

January 19, 2018
When the body is under attack from pathogens, the immune system marshals a diverse collection of immune cells to work together in a tightly orchestrated process and defend the host against the intruders. For many decades, ...

Genomics reveals key macrophages' involvement in systemic sclerosis

January 18, 2018
A new international study has made an important discovery about the key role of macrophages, a type of immune cell, in systemic sclerosis (SSc), a chronic autoimmune disease which currently has no cure.

First vaccine developed against grass pollen allergy

January 18, 2018
Around 400 million people worldwide suffer in some form or other from a grass pollen allergy (rhinitis), with the usual symptoms of runny nose, cough and severe breathing problems. In collaboration with the Viennese firm ...

Researchers discover key driver of atopic dermatitis

January 17, 2018
Severe eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that is driven by an allergic reaction. In their latest study, researchers at La Jolla Institute reveal an important player that promotes ...

Who might benefit from immunotherapy? New study suggests possible marker

January 16, 2018
While immunotherapy has made a big impact on cancer treatment, the fact remains that only about a quarter of patients respond to these treatments.

Researchers identify new way to unmask melanoma cells to the immune system

January 16, 2018
system, which enables these deadly skin cancers to grow and spread.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.