September 3, 2014

Add Health Study: Long-term effects of birth weight and breastfeeding duration on inflammation in early adulthood


Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, a research team from Northwestern University, Washington University in St. Louis, and the University of California-Irvine studied the effect of birth weight and breastfeeding on early adulthood inflammation. The research team of Thomas W. McDade, Molly W. Metzger, Laura Chyu, Greg J. Duncan, Craig Garfield, and Emma K. Adam assessed birth weight and length of breastfeeding as predictors of C-reactive protein (an inflammation biomarker) in adults aged 24-32. They found that C-reactive protein concentrations were lower among breastfed individuals than individuals not breastfed, and that the longer an individual was breastfed, the lower their CRP concentration was in young adulthood.  The authors also reported that for birth weights of 2.8 kg and higher, birth weight was negatively associated with C-reactive protein in young adulthood.

Read the Huffington Post story here:  Breastfeeding may protect against heart disease, study (released on April 23, 2014). 

Excerpt:  “The study found that breastfeeding had ‘the same or greater effect’ as medicines on reducing CRP levels in young adults. Chronic inflammation had long been linked to cardiovascular disease, but the causes of the little-understood condition remain unclear.

‘The results suggest that breastfeeding may reduce a major risk factor for heart disease well into adulthood,’ said Alan Guttmacher, director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.”

Thomas W. McDade is a Professor at Northwestern University’s Department of Anthropology and the Director of Cells to Society at Northwestern University’s Institute for Policy Research.  Molly W. Metzger is an Assistant Professor at the Washington University in St. Louis George Warren Brown School of Social Work. Laura Chyu is a Fellow at Cells to Society at Northwestern University’s Institute for Policy Research. Greg Duncan is a Distinguished Professor at the University of California-Irvine’s School of Education.  Craig F. Garfield is an Associate Professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in the Departments of Pediatrics and Medical Social Sciences, who is also affiliated with the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, and Northwestern University’s Institute for Policy Research in Evanston, Illinois.  Emma K. Adam is Professor at Northwestern University’s School of Education and Social Policy.

Scholarly source:  McDade TW, Metzger MW, Chyu L, Duncan GJ, Garfield C, Adam EK. Long-term effects of birth weight and breastfeeding duration on inflammation in early adulthood. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 2014. Article available online.