To assess the influence of infant breast feeding on C reactive protein (CRP), a marker of low grade inflammation associated with cardiovascular mortality independent of serum cholesterol concentrations.
Serum CRP, total cholesterol, anthropometric, and blood pressure measurements were performed along with assessment of infant breast feeding duration, birth weight, smoking status, adult socioeconomic status, number of health problems, and hormonal contraceptive use.
A New Zealand predominantly European descent community birth cohort.
822 men and women aged 26 years.
There was a significant linear relation (p<0.001) between duration of breast feeding and adult CRP level in women. The geometric means (IQR) for CRP were 2.22 (1, 4) mg/l for women breast fed for six months or more and 3.95 (2, 8) mg/l for women not breast fed (ratio, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.69 (0.55 to 0.87). The linear association between cholesterol and breast feeding was also significant (p = 0.01), the geometric mean (IQR) total cholesterol levels being 4.62 (4.10, 5.10) for those breast fed for six months or more and 5.04 (4.5, 5.80) for those not breast fed (ratio, 95% CI: 0.92 (0.87, 0.98). There was no relation between CRP or total cholesterol and duration of breast feeding in men.
The findings of lower CRP with an increased duration of breast feeding in women suggest early postnatal nutrition may influence long term cardiovascular risk.