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Low Birth Weight, Lack of Breast-Feeding Tied to Inflammation Risk in Adulthood
Study of more than 10,000 people suggests these infants may someday have more health problems

By Robert Preidt

THURSDAY, April 17, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Years later, people who were underweight at birth, and those who were breast-fed only a short time or not at all, could be at increased risk for chronic inflammation and related health problems, a new study suggests.

Researchers examined health data from 10,500 American adults and found that those with low birth weight and those who had little or no breast-feeding had higher levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), an indicator of inflammation.

Chronic inflammation is associated with health risks such as diabetes and heart attack, the study authors noted.

The study did not find a cause-and-effect relationship, however.

The researchers explained that it can be difficult to determine how birth weight and breast-feeding affect long-term health because these problems are more common among children whose parents have lower levels of education and income. This means it's unclear if other factors play a role.

But this study included a large number of siblings and the researchers found that even within the same family, birth weight and breast-feeding influenced the risk of inflammation in adulthood.

The findings will be published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

"There were good reasons to hypothesize that breast-feeding was important to influencing levels of inflammation in adulthood," study author Thomas McDade, a Canadian Institute for Advanced Research Fellow in the child and brain development program at Northwestern University, said in an institute news release.

"[Breast-feeding] promotes development of the immune system. Children who are breast-fed get fewer infectious diseases and are less likely to become overweight," he noted.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about breast-feeding.

SOURCE: Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, news release, April 14, 2014

Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved. URL:http://consumer.healthday.com/Article.asp?AID=686836

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