Women Who Breast-Feed are Less Likely to Develop Multiple Sclerosis

Benefits reported for women who nursed 15 months or more

Women with a longer history of breast-feeding may be less likely to develop multiple sclerosis than mothers who skip breast-feeding or nurse for briefer periods, a new study suggests.

Researchers compared nearly 400 women with MS or its precursor, known as clinically isolated syndrome (CIS), with a similar healthy group. They found that mothers who had breast-fed  one or more children for a total of 15 months or longer were 53 percent less likely to develop MS or CIS than those with zero to four months of total breast-feeding.

“No one has shown before that breast-feeding could have a prolonged benefit on the mother’s immune system,” said study author Dr. Annette Langer-Gould. She’s a research scientist in neurology at Kaiser Permanente in Pasadena, Calif.

“This is one more piece of evidence that women who want to breast-feed should be supported to do so,” Langer-Gould added. “It’s not just good for the baby, but may have prolonged maternal health benefits.”

An estimated 400,000 Americans — and 2.5 million people worldwide — have MS, according to the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation. It’s an incurable autoimmune disease, meaning the body attacks its own tissues, often causing numbness, tingling, bowel and bladder difficulties, walking problems and thinking issues. MS disproportionately affects women of childbearing age compared to men or older women.

Existing research has revealed a bevy of other health benefits related to breast-feeding, including lower risks of type 2 diabetes, breast and ovarian cancers, and heart attack. These benefits appear to increase for women who breast-feed longer.

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SOURCE: HealthDay News
Maureen Salamon