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La Leche League International
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Schaumburg, IL (February 2003)-As we reflect on heart health during February, American Heart Month, compelling evidence suggests that human milk provides one of the keys to future heart health for the breastfed infant. Better cholesterol, lower risk for insulin dependent diabetes, and lower weight and blood pressure are among the lifelong possibilities for infants lucky enough to be breastfed by their mothers.

According to a September 2002 study that was published in Pediatrics higher total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol are characteristic of breastfed infants. It is thought that this may be a type of nutritional programming during infancy, resulting in reduced cholesterol levels in adulthood.

In addition to breastfeeding being associated with better adult cholesterol levels, extensive research suggests that breastfeeding also helps prevent insulin dependent diabetes which is another risk factor in developing heart disease. Those infants who were exclusively breastfed during the first three months of life had a 34 percent lower risk of developing insulin dependent diabetes later in life. Human milk consumption was also associated with lower blood pressure later in life of children born prematurely.

A study which recently appeared in The Journal of Human Lactation, concluded that evidence suggests that breastfeeding is one factor that reduces the risk of child overweight. Breastfeeding as a lifelong gift may be the best Valentine's gift a mother can give her infant.

Breastfeeding also provides other compelling advantages to infants, mothers, families and even the environment. It significantly decreases the risks to a large number of acute and chronic diseases.

Research suggests that peer support is fundamental in breastfeeding success rates. Since 1956, La Leche League International has been providing breastfeeding education and encouragement through mother-to-mother support. If you would like additional information on breastfeeding, please contact La Leche League, the world's foremost authority on breastfeeding support, at (847) 519-7730 or visit us on the web at

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