Heart Diseases in Premature Babies Can Be Prevented with Breast Milk

Anju Bisht

, News

Hundreds of time it is said that breast milk contains everything that a baby needs. Additionally, researchers have found heart disease in prematurely born infants is preventable if breastfeeding is done early.


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Unique heart characteristics as in smaller heart chambers, relatively higher blood pressure, and a disproportionate increase in muscle mass in the heart. This the one major and long-term health complications that young adults born prematurely may have.


Researcher Afif El-Khuffash, Professor at The Rotunda Hospital, Dublin Ireland said, “The current evidence comes from observational studies and highlights the strong link between early breast milk administrations and improvement in long-term heart health, but it lacks concrete mechanistic explanations.”


In a study, 30 preterm-born adults were assigned to receive exclusive human milk and 16 preterm-born adults were assigned to receive an exclusive formula-based diet while hospital stays at birth. Afterward, they had a detailed cardiovascular assessment including an MRI of their hearts between 23 and 28 years of age.


With an expected result- the heart of preterm born had smaller chambers than those who were not born prematurely. In addition, the study showed, the smaller heart chambers were less profound in the human milk-fed group than those who were on formula based-diet. This suggests a protective effect of human milk on heart structure.


Further researchers identified the potential reasons as for why breast milk results in a lower risk of heart disease;


  • It helps in better-regulating hormones and growth factors



  • Reduces inflammation by possibly improving the metabolism of the child.


If breast milk key components are identified that result in improved heart health it could pave the way for a more targeted approach to improve long-term cardiovascular well- being for those born prematurely.


What causes these health benefits could clear out after more studies on the composition of breast milk. That would lead to better treatment options. Continous study on the effects of human milk exposure on heart function in very premature infants by using novel scans to measure heart function is in progress with the collaborative research group.


Alongside they hope to demonstrate significant improvements in heart function due to the exposure of early human milk in premature infants over the first two years of age.


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