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Women who breastfeed less likely to develop heart disease, study finds

Breastfeeding can reduce a woman’s risk of developing heart disease in later life, research has found.

Breastfeeding was associated with a reduction in markers for heart and blood vessel disease in post-menopausal women, according to the study.

The research, carried out by scientists in Athens and presented in Lyon at the annual European Endocrinology Society meeting, included just under 300 postmenopausal women and looked at their history of breastfeeding, markers of vascular health and the presence of atherosclerotic plaque.

They found that levels of a marker associated with arterial wall stiffness were lower in women who breastfed for longer periods. Women who breastfed for more than six months also had significantly lower measurements for vascular wall thickness than those who breastfed for between one and six months, suggesting reduced atherosclerosis.

Study author and gynaecological endocrinologist, Professor Irene Lambrinoudaki, commented: ‘These findings indicate that breastfeeding lowers the risk of heart disease in women. However, this is an association study only, we are now interested in looking at establishing the underlying causes of this protective effect.

‘If we can show causality for the protective effect, women will have one more reason to nurse their infants, beyond the already documented benefits of breastfeeding for short- and long-term health of both them and their children.’