Breastfeeding reduces Alzheimer’s disease rates among mothers, a new study has found. Many studies have shown the benefits of breastfeeding for newborns, but this may be the most profound and unexpected health bonus for mothers yet found.
Alzheimer’s disease ranks as the sixth most common cause of death in the United States. As many as 5.2 million Americans currently have the condition. This new study, however, may lead to preventative solutions and possibly even a cure for the deadly disease.
CBS News reports that a recent study shows that compared to mothers who do not breastfeed their children, mothers who do have much lower rates of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers in the University of Cambridge’s biological anthropology department were interested in finding how breastfeeding affects the mother’s health and were startled with this discovery.
Mothers who breastfeed their infants have a 64 percent lower risk for Alzheimer’s compared to those who never do, they found. And those who breastfed their child for a longer period saw their risk continue to drop. One woman who breastfed her newborn 2.72 times longer than another woman had her Alzheimer’s risk reduced by 22 percent.
Women found to have a higher ratio of breastfeeding to time pregnant also had lowered Alzheimer’s risks. This means if a woman had one child but breastfed him longer than the combined breastfeeding time of a mother of two, she will have a larger reduction in risk of Alzheimer’s.
Other studies in this area have found that breastfeeding lowers rates Type-2 diabetes, ovarian and breast cancer, and postpartum depression. Some studies have also suggested that breastfeeding can reduce the risk of childhood obesity.
The Telegraph reports that there are several theories about the findings. One is that women who breastfeed have their body’s progesterone hormones lowered. This hormone is produced in large amounts during pregnancy and is believed to reduce the brain’s ability to receive the oestrogen hormone. Something about oestrogen may protect the brain from Alzheimer’s, scientists say.
Breastfeeding has been found before to help increase the mother’s tolerance to glucose. This is done through returning the mother’s sensitivity to insulin to a normal level after pregnancy. During pregnancy, insulin sensitivity is heightened. A brain suffering from Alzheimer’s disease has been found to have a high insulin resistance.
This study linking breastfeeding and Alzheimer’s disease rates in mothers adds to the benefits of avoiding baby formula during the early months of a newborn’s life.
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