Infant formula playing a role in adult disease?
in infancy, boosted by enriched infant formulas, might increase the
risk of heart disease and stroke later in life, say UK-based
Their study, published in the 15 May issue of The Lancet (363: 1571-78), found that teenagers who had been given breastmilk during infancy had a 14 per cent lower ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol and lower concentrations of CRP than those who had been fed formula milk.
A greater proportion of human milk intake in infancy was associated with lower ratios of LDL to HDL cholesterol.
The findings back previous but limited evidence associating breastfeeding with reduced cardiovascular disease in adulthood. "Our findings suggest that infant nutrition permanently affects the lipoprotein profile later in life, and that breastmilk feeding has a major beneficial effect on long-term cardiovascular health," write the authors.
But in a journal editorial (p1642-45) they discuss further the theory that conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes could be influenced by a baby's growth rate.
Atul Singhal from the Institute of Child Health, London, UK, and colleague Alan Lucas, whose study followed 216 teenagers who had been randomised to different milks in trials in the early 1980s, suggest that breastfeeding gives an infant the nutrition it needs. But nutrient-rich formula makes children grow too much, too fast.
"Breastfed infants show slower growth than those fed formula (especially in the early weeks when breastfeeding is not fully established)," they write. "[Breastfed infants] subsequently have lower risk of cardiovascular disease, [high cholesterol], obesity, non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus, and high blood pressure."
If the theory is confirmed, it could have major implications on current recommendations for childhood nutrition and formulation of infant nutrition products.
"Our findings strongly support the promotion of breastfeeding, which reduces the risk of early over-nutrition and overgrowth, particularly in the early weeks," they conclude.