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Heart development of premature babies clearly benefits from breastfeeding
Preterm babies are not only weak in their constitution during the first months of life, but also in adulthood there are many increased problems, for example with the heart. In a recent study, scientists from the University of Oxford have now found that premature babies who are breast-fed have significantly better cardiac functions than bottle-fed children. The researchers have published their results in the specialist magazine "Pediatrics".
The hearts of the premature babies show, according to the research team led by Professor Paul Leeson and Dr. Adam Lewandowski from Oxford University often has an abnormal development. In older studies, the scientists were able to demonstrate that the premature babies had smaller heart chambers, thicker heart walls and restricted heart functions in later adulthood. The changes in the heart developed in the first months after birth. Therefore, the researchers have now investigated whether the way of early childhood nutrition influences the development of the child.
Cardiovascular follow-up after around 30 years
For their current investigation, the scientists used the data from previous studies and carried out a new heart examination on some of the test subjects. "We already had data from more than 900 people who have been observed since birth in a previous study that started in 1982 on the effects of different feeding methods on premature babies," says study leader Dr. Lewandowski. The subjects were invited to Oxford for a detailed cardiovascular follow-up. Of the original participants, 102 people came to Oxford and participated in the study. Another 102 participants of the same age who were not premature babies also participated in the study.
Cardiac function of premature babies impaired
The current study confirmed on the one hand that premature babies have clear disadvantages compared to normal babies in terms of their heart volume and cardiac function. However, it was also shown that these impairments were significantly lower in the premature babies who were breastfed exclusively with breast milk. Even with a combination of vial and breast, the heart structure and function improved with increasing proportion of breast milk, the scientists report. Even taking into account other factors that may affect the heart, breast milk is associated with clear benefits in heart volume and function, according to the University of Oxford.
Compensation for the disadvantages in heart development
Director of Studies Dr. Lewandowski concludes that "even the best baby food lacks some of the growth factors, enzymes and antibodies that breast milk provides for developing babies." Breastfeeding could at least partially offset the disadvantages that premature babies face in developing their hearts , emphasizes the expert. The current study provides the first evidence of a useful link between breast milk and cardiac morphology into adulthood. In the long term, the cardiovascular risk for those affected can be significantly reduced. (fp)