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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Northwestern, WashU: Breastfeeding Can Reduce Later Risk for Inflammation in Young Adults

Young adults who were breastfed for three months or more as babies have a significantly lower risk of chronic inflammation associated with cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, according to a new study from Northwestern University and the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.


[Photo: Dr. Molly W. Metzger]

Researchers used data from the U.S. National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, including parent surveys, and blood samples providing measurements of C-reactive protein (CRP), a key biomarker of inflammation that predicts increased cardiovascular and metabolic disease risk.

These findings held up in a series of sibling models, in which one sibling was breastfed and the other was not. Such models provide improved confidence in the results by implicitly controlling for genetic factors for elevated CRP.


[Photo: Dr. Thomas W. McDade ]

“Efforts to improve birth outcomes and to increase the initiation and duration of breastfeeding … may reduce levels of chronic inflammation in adulthood and lower risk for chronic degenerative diseases of aging,” said Dr. Molly W. Metzger, assistant professor at the Brown School and a co-author of the study with Dr. Thomas W. McDade of Northwestern, professor and director of Cells to Society: The Center on Social Disparities and Health.

The study was published June 7 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

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