November 01, 2018
2 min read

Longer breastfeeding duration lowers women’s risk for NAFLD

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Longer lactation duration lowered the odds for developing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in midlife among nursing women, according to a study recently published in Journal of Hepatology.

“Breastfeeding and its benefits to the child have been widely studied for years,” Veeral H. Ajmera, MD, from the University of California in San Diego, said in a press release for the study. “However, this new analysis contributes to the growing body of evidence showing that breastfeeding a child also offers significant health benefits to the mother — namely, protecting her from developing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in middle age.”

The CARDIA study comprised 844 women with a history of one or more births and lactation data gathered between 1985 and 1986. Researchers randomly selected participants for the trial and the only baseline confounding risk factors associated with NAFLD included race and BMI.

The women reported lactation durations of 0 months to 1 month (32%), more than 1 month to 6 months (25%), and more than 6 months (43%).

At year 25 of follow-up, 54 women met the computed tomography definition for NAFLD. Of those with NAFLD, 43% breastfed for 1 month or less, 30% breastfed for 1 month to 6 months, and 28% breastfed for more than 6 months.

NAFLD prevalence decreased as lactation duration increased, from 8.3% among women who breastfed for 1 month or less, to 7.7% in those who breastfed for more than 1 month to 6 months, to 4.2% in those who breastfed for more than 6 months.

Women with longer lactation duration also had significantly lower BMI (P < .04), homeostatic model assessment of insulin resistance (P < .01), triglycerides (P < .01), total cholesterol (P = .04) and LDL cholesterol (P = .01).

Multivariate analysis adjusted for baseline BMI, race and post-baseline parity showed that lactation duration of more than 6 months compared with 1 month or less correlated with a significantly lower risk for NAFLD (OR = 0.46; 95% CI, 0.22-0.97).

According to Ajmera and colleagues, the relationship between lactation duration and NAFLD may be an important lifestyle intervention for the prevention of fatty liver disease.

“This work adds to the growing list of potential long-term maternal health benefits of lactation including decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancer, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease,” the researchers wrote. “Promotion of breastfeeding among parous women during the perinatal period may represent a unique opportunity to decrease the prevalence of NAFLD.” – by Talitha Bennett

Disclosure: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.