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expert reaction to study looking at breastfeeding and cardiovascular disease in women

A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association looks at breastfeeding and maternal cardiovascular risk.


Dr Adam Lewandowski, Associate Professor of Cardiovascular Science, Radcliffe Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, said:

“The current study shows through a systematic review and meta-analysis of the literature that breastfeeding is associated with a significantly decreased lifetime risk for maternal cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, stroke, and fatal cardiovascular disease.  Despite high between-studies heterogeneity that may have been driven by variability in study population and methodology, the current study highlights once again the importance of well conducted meta-analyses for accurate risk analysis.

“The notion that ‘breast is best’ has long been suggested by the medical community for the child, but this study adds to the growing body of evidence that it may also offer cardiovascular protective properties for the mother.  Breast milk is packed with different hormones, antibodies, stem cells, enzymes, and nutrients that may be driving these benefits, which is worthy of further scientific study.  The evidence suggests that women should be offered more breastfeeding support to enhance their health and that of their child.”


Ruth Goss, Senior Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), said:

“This research is promising in helping to identify links between breastfeeding and a mother’s heart and circulatory health.  However, although the study suggests a reduction in the risk of developing conditions such as stroke and heart disease in women who breastfed, the explanation for how this happens still isn’t clear, so further research will be needed.

“Breastfeeding may not be suitable for all mothers, so it is important to continue living a healthy lifestyle.  Maintaining a healthy weight and diet, not smoking and staying active are all key parts of improving your health and reducing the risk of developing conditions that can cause heart disease and stroke.  If you are pregnant and have any concerns about your heart health, do not hesitate to contact your midwife or GP for advice and support.”


Prof Naveed Sattar, Professor of Metabolic Medicine, University of Glasgow, said:

“This work comes from an excellent group – the top line results are not surprising given i) women who chose to breast feed will have several other lifestyle habits that reduce heart disease risks compared to women who chose not to, and many of these factors are not easily accounted for in the research methods; and ii) breast feeding can help women lose weight and long term weight trajectories are highly relevant to heart disease, cancers and type 2 diabetes, all of which occur less in women who chose to breast feed.  So there may be both direct and indirect reasons for why women who chose to breast feed are at lower risk of heart disease or stroke.”



‘Breastfeeding is associated with a reduced maternal cardiovascular risk: Systematic review and meta-analysis involving data from eight studies and 1,192,700 parous women’ by Lena Tschiderer et al. was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association on Tuesday 11 January 2022.

DOI: 10.1161/JAHA.121.022746



Declared interests

Prof Naveed Sattar: “No COI.”

None others received.


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