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Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Apr;93(4):712-8. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.110.002980. Epub 2011 Feb 10.

The association between breastfeeding and the cardiovascular system in early childhood.

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Julius Center for Health Sciences and Primary Care, University Medical Center Utrecht, Netherlands.



Breastfeeding is suggested to have beneficial effects on children's health and future health status. However, its cardiovascular effects in childhood and possibly later in life remain largely unclear.


The aim of the present study was to determine the cardiovascular effects of exclusive breastfeeding in early childhood.


We used the ongoing WHeezing Illnesses STudy LEidsche Rijn (WHISTLER) birth cohort to obtain data on infant feeding. In the first 306 children who were 5 y of age, ultrasonographic measurements of the carotid artery were performed to obtain carotid intima-media thickness (CIMT), distensibility, and elastic modulus.


At 5 y of age, children who had been exclusively breastfed in infancy for 3 to 6 mo had a CIMT that was 21.1 μm greater than that of exclusively formula-fed children (95% CI: 5.0, 37.2 μm; P = 0.01, adjusted for confounders). CIMT was not significantly different between children exclusively breastfed for either <3 or >6 mo and formula-fed children. In addition, no significant differences in carotid stiffness were observed between groups.


The duration of exclusive breastfeeding in infancy is related to properties of the carotid arterial wall at the age of 5 y, as shown by the greater CIMT in children who were exclusively breastfed for 3 to 6 mo. This relation was independent of early growth in infancy and current cardiovascular disease risk factors. The choice of infant feeding appears to have an effect on the vascular system already in early childhood.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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