Long-term breastfeeding 'cuts arthritis risk in half'
Tuesday, 13 May 2008 08:47
Long-term breastfeeding 'cuts arthritis risk in half' Printer friendly version Women who breastfeed for more than a year are half as likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis (RA) as those who have never breastfed, new research suggests.
Swedish scientists found that simply having children and not breastfeeding did not seem to have a protective effect.
They also discovered that oral contraceptives, which are suspected to protect against the disease because they contain hormones that are raised in pregnancy, did not have the same effect.
The researchers studied 136 women with rheumatoid arthritis and 544 women of a similar age without the disease.
Those who had breastfed for longer were much less likely to get RA.
Women who had breastfed for 13 months or more were half as likely to get rheumatoid arthritis as those who had never breastfed while those who had breast fed for one to 12 months were 25 per cent less likely to get the disease.
The effect of breastfeeding on RA was found to remain after smoking and level of education were taken into account.
"Breastfeeding is known to have multiple health benefits for the baby and may protect mothers against breast cancer and ovarian cancer," the researchers write in the journal Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.
"Furthermore, our results indicate that breastfeeding may have a dose-dependent protective effect against RA."
They add that further research should investigate their finding that RA is inversely associated with long-term breastfeeding, rather than with the number of children born.