A new led study by researchers at the University of Cambridge suggests that breastfeeding reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. According to the study, recently published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, it seems that the risk is lower as the breastfeeding periods are longer.
Alzheimer’s disease ( AD) is known to cause insulin resistance in the brain and there seems to be a biological link between breastfeeding and this disease. In addition, breastfeeding ameliorates tolerance to insulin, which is significantly reduced during pregnancy. Even though the study was conducted only on a small number of patients (81 British women), researchers found a significant correlation between breastfeeding and Alzheimer’s disease. The correlation was much less significant in women who already had a history of dementia in their family.
The study opens a new perspective on the possible causes of Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, it is known that breastfeeding has benefits for both mother and baby and the study results urge women to breastfeed rather than bottlefeed. The researchers hope that these findings are confirmed by further studies on reproductive history and risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Dr Molly Fox, from the Department of Biological Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, said that Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cognitive disease affecting 35 million people and they expect that in the future AD will spread in low and middle- income countries. It is therefore vital that they develop strategies to protect people against this devastating disease.
This is not the first study that shows a correlation between breastfeeding and the risk of Alzheimer’s; there have been studies that have shown that breastfeeding reduces the mother’s risk for certain diseases. In addition there appears to be a link between breastfeeding and cognitive decline of the mother in later in life.
The study was performed on both women with Alzheimer’s disease and women without Alzheimer’s. Investigators have focused on information such as reproductive history, history of nursing, dementia status (which was evaluated using a Clinical Dementia Rating), as well as other possible risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease such as stroke. The researchers found that women who breastfeed have a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and that this risk is directly proportional. “Women who spent more time pregnant without a compensatory phase of breastfeeding therefore may have more impaired glucose tolerance, which is consistent with our observation that those women have an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease”, researchers said.