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Breastfeeding Linked with Lower Risk of Alzheimer's Disease

Aug 05, 2013 09:14 AM EDT

Mothers who breastfeed their babies have lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, reported a study from University of Cambridge.

Breastfeeding helps the baby get all the required nutrients for a healthy body. However, previous research has shown that breastfeeding helps women strengthen the bond between herself and the baby, protects her from certain cancers and also lowers risk of obesity and heart disease.  

The latest study shows that breastfeeding can lower risk of Alzheimer's disease in women. According to National Institute on Aging, Alzheimer's disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and eventually even the ability to carry out the simplest tasks of daily living. In most people with Alzheimer's, symptoms first appear after age 60.

Breastfeeding affects certain biological mechanisms and restores insulin tolerance, thus reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

The study was based on a small sample size of 81 women from Britain. Researchers said that though the study sample was small, they found the relation between breastfeeding and AD to be "so strong that any potential sampling error was unlikely." The study showed that women who breastfed for a longer period of time had the lowest risk of developing AD.

However, breastfeeding may not lower AD risk in women who already have a family history of dementia, researchers found.

The study opens-up a new possible way of studying the condition and how breastfeeding helps women retain cognitive abilities even at later stages of life.

"Alzheimer's is the world's most common cognitive disorder and it already affects 35.6 million people. In the future, we expect it to spread most in low and middle-income countries. So it is vital that we develop low-cost, large-scale strategies to protect people against this devastating disease," said Dr Molly Fox, from the Department of Biological Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, lead author of the study, according to a news release.

The study is published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

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