Study finds breastfeeding may help prevent multiple sclerosis

A study in the journal Neurology has found an interesting benefit from breastfeeding. Women who breastfeed longer may be less likely to develop multiple sclerosis than those who don’t breast-feed or nurse for a shorter time.

After studying nearly 400 women with MS or an earlier syndrome that precedes MS, called clinically isolated syndrome (CIS), researchers found that mothers who had breastfed 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 breastfeeding could have a prolonged benefit on the mother’s immune system,” said study author Dr. Annette Langer-Gould, a research scientist in neurology at Kaiser Permanente in Pasadena, Calif. “This is one more piece of evidence that women who want to breastfeed should be supported to do so. It’s not just good for the baby, but may have prolonged maternal health benefits.”

An estimated 400,000 Americans have MS, an incurable autoimmune disease that affects women of childbearing age more often than men or older women. The study’s authors think that longer periods of breastfeeding may lower inflammatory cells that may play a role in MS, though that has not been proven.

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