Washington: Women, take note! Breastfeeding for six months or more could lower your risk of developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) years later during mid-life.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine and Kaiser Permanente, is published in the Journal of Hepatology.
“Breastfeeding and its benefits to the child have been widely studied for years,” said Veeral Ajmera, a researcher. “However, this new analysis contributes to the growing body of evidence showing that breastfeeding a child also offers significant health benefits to the mother — namely, protecting her from developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in middle age.”
“The study’s unique strength is the evaluation of cardiovascular and metabolic risk factors in young women before pregnancy and across the childbearing years,” said senior author Erica P. Gunderson. “This design accounts for pre-pregnancy risk factors and identifies more closely the specific relation of lactation to a woman’s future disease risk.”
According to study findings, women in the cohort who breastfed one or more children for longer than six months had a lower risk of NAFLD compared to those who did not breastfeed or breastfed for under one month. Typical of NAFLD, women diagnosed with the disease 25 years later had a higher body mass index, larger waist circumference, higher triglycerides, and lower HDL cholesterol when compared to those without NAFLD.
NAFLD is usually asymptomatic until advanced stages of liver disease and includes a spectrum of disease severity, with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) being the most aggressive type. Multiple genetic and environmental factors contribute to NAFLD, and certain health conditions, such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, can be predisposing factors.
It is estimated that tens of millions of people globally are living with NAFLD and NASH. Weight loss and a healthier diet are the current standards of care.
“Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and all metabolic diseases have a unique relationship with socioeconomic factors,” said Ajmera. “The inclusion of additional information regarding diet and exercise only further strengthen our claim that breastfeeding is beneficial in the prevention of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.”