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Infant feeding and components of the metabolic syndrome: findings from the European Youth Heart Study


Aims: To assess the associations of type and duration of infant feeding with components of the metabolic syndrome in children aged 9 and 15.

Methods: A total of 2192 randomly selected schoolchildren aged 9 and 15 years from Estonia (n = 1174) and Denmark (n = 1018) were studied. Insulin resistance (homoeostasis model assessment), triglyceride levels, high density lipoprotein cholesterol, and systolic blood pressure were measured.

Results: Children who had ever been exclusively breast fed had lower systolic blood pressures than those who were not. With full adjustment for age, sex, country, birth weight, pubertal stage, body mass index, height, maternal and paternal education, income, smoking, and body mass index the mean systolic blood pressure of children who had ever been breast fed was 1.7 mm Hg (95% CI −3.0 to −0.5) lower than those who had never been exclusively breast fed. There was a dose-response in this association with decreasing mean systolic blood pressure across categories from never exclusively breast fed to breast fed for more than six months. Exclusive breast feeding was not associated with other components of the metabolic syndrome. Results were similar when examined separately in each country.

Conclusions: The magnitude of the association, its independence of important confounding factors, and the dose-response suggest that exclusive breast feeding is causally associated with reduced systolic blood pressure. The magnitude of the effect we found with blood pressure is comparable to the published effects of salt restriction and physical activity on blood pressure in adult populations, suggesting that it is of public health importance.

  • blood pressure
  • breast feeding
  • infant feeding
  • insulin resistance

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