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21/10/2008

Breastfeeding-healthy for mothers as well

(NaturalNews) Women can cut their risk of rheumatoid arthritis by 50 percent simply by breastfeeding for a year or longer, according to a study conducted by researchers from Malmo University Hospital in Sweden, and published in the "Annals of Rheumatic Diseases."

Scientists have wondered whether breastfeeding might affect the risk of rheumatoid arthritis, because it stimulates the production of two hormones that may have some connection to the disease. While it raises levels of oxytocin - which has been linked with lowered blood pressure and stress hormone levels and general well-being - it also raises levels of prolactin, which stimulates the immune system.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, in which the body's immune system attacks its own joints, causing painful and even crippling inflammation. Some researchers had suggested that by increasing prolactin levels, breastfeeding might increase risk of the disease.

But the current study found that breastfeeding actually lowered rheumatoid arthritis risk.

Researchers compared the breastfeeding habits of 136 women suffering from rheumatoid arthritis with 544 women who did not have the disease. They found that those who breastfed for at least 13 months had a 50 percent lower risk of the disease, while those who breastfed for at least one month had a 25 percent lower risk than those who never breastfed at all. In contrast, women who had children but did not breastfeed had roughly the same risk of the disease as women who never had children at all.

According to the British Infant Feeding Survey, less than 1 percent of women in the United Kingdom breastfeed exclusively for even the first six months of their children's lives. A full 76 percent start out breastfeeding, but most switch to formula after only a few weeks. Less than 50 percent are still breastfeeding at all after six weeks, and only 25 percent at six months.

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