Breastfeeding of preterm neonates may provide cardiac benefits long after infancy, according to results of a British study published in Pediatrics.
The researcher was a follow up to a randomized controlled trial, in which postnatal milk-feeding regimens were assessed across 5 UK centers between 1982 and 1985. In that study 926 preterm infants studied were randomly assigned to receive either nutrient-rich formula or breastmilk donated by unrelated women who were lactating.
For the new study, the researchers followed 102 people from the original cohort: 16 who had exclusively been fed formula and 30 who had exclusively been fed human milk. They recruited 102 individuals who had been born at term following uncomplicated pregnancy. Magnetic resonance imaging was used to assess cardiac morphology and function.
When compared with preterm-born individuals who were exclusively fed with formula, those who had been exclusively given breastmilk as infants had increased left and right ventricular end-diastolic volume index (+9.73%, P = .04 and +18.2%, P < .001) and stroke volume index (+9.79%, P = .05 and +22.1%, P = .01).
The researchers concluded that there appears to a beneficial association between cardiac morphology and function in adult life and breast milk, the first evidence of such an association.