Breast-feeding may lower blood pressure in childhood

Last Updated: 2004-03-01 16:43:42 -0400 (Reuters Health)

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - It has been reported that individuals who
were breast-fed during infancy appear to have decreased risk of death
from heart disease. Now, new research suggests that this may be due to
blood pressure-lowering effects of breast-feeding.

"The wider promotion of breast-feeding is a potential component of the
public health strategy to reduce population levels of blood pressure,"
the researchers suggest in the current issue of Circulation: Journal of
the American Heart Association.

The findings are based on a study of 4,763 non-twin, full-term infants
who had their blood pressures determined at 7.5 years of age.
Questionnaires were also sent to the mothers to assess breast-feeding
during infancy.

Dr. Richard M. Martin, from the University of Bristol in the UK, and
colleagues found that breast-fed children had systolic blood
pressure--the top number of the blood pressure reading--1.2 mm Hg lower
than those of children who were not breast-fed. The corresponding
decrease for diastolic pressure--the lower number of the blood pressure
reading--was 0.9 mm Hg

After Martin's group took into consideration various demographic factors
that could contribute to the development of high blood pressure, the
effects of breast-feeding were lessened, although still statistically

The findings did not differ between infants who were breast-fed only and
those who received a combination of breast milk and formula, the authors
note. However, the duration of breast-feeding did have an effect; for
each three-month period of feeding, the systolic pressure fell by 0.2 mm

Although breast-feeding was only linked to a small reduction in blood
pressure, this could still have a strong impact on heart disease
mortality, Martin said in a statement.

"A one-percent reduction in population systolic blood pressure levels is
associated with about a 1.5-percent reduction in all-cause mortality,
equivalent to a lessening in premature death of about 8000 to 2000
deaths per year in the United States and the United Kingdom,
respectively," he added.

SOURCE: Circulation, March 1, 2004.