Human milk-fed premature infants receive significant benefits with respect to host protection and improved developmental outcomes compared with formula-fed premature infants. Exclusive breastfeeding is sufficient to support optimal growth and development for approximately the first 6 months of life and provides continuing protection against diarrhea and respiratory tract infection. Breastfeeding has been linked to many health benefits in infants. Breast milk reduces the risk of obesity in children and also lower the risk of childhood leukemia is proved.

A new study from Australia shows that breastfeeding reduce the risk of developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in adolescence, Dr. Oyekoya Ayonrinde presented at the International Liver Congress 13-17 April, 2016 at Barcelona, Spain.

Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease is a growing public health concern. The diseases is marked by the buildup of extra fat in liver cells. The prevalence is rising in adolescents and children. Recent studies claim it has become the most common liver disease in people between the ages of two to 19 years. The exact cause of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is unknown. It is believed that obesity, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes are factors that may signal an increased risk of developing this condition.

The Australian researchers found that breastfeeding for at least six months reduced the risk of an infant developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in adolescence by a third compared to those who were fed less than six months.

The researchers also found that pre-pregnancy BMI (body mass index), is linked to a child’s risk of developing fatty liver. Mothers whose BMI is within a normal range, between 18.5 and 24.9, reduced an infant’s risk of developing the liver disease by a half compared to those whose mothers didn’t. They have observed a link between mother’s metabolic health and the health outcomes of their children, including the development of diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

The authors examined data from an earlier long-running Australian study of pregnant women and their eventual children known as the Raine Study. Specifically, they looked at the health records of 1,170 17-year-olds enrolled in the study. The physical examinations and liver ultrasounds helped in diagnosing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. The results demonstrate the grave impact maternal factors can have on the risk of developing liver disease in adolescence.

More than 15% of the teens studied were diagnosed with the liver condition. Interestingly, while the protective effect of breastfeeding appeared to kick in after six months, breastfeeding for more than nine months didn’t further reduce the odds of developing it. Optimizing maternal health before and during gestation is an important health measure for both mother and child alike. There are environmental, genetic and epigenetic components to metabolic disease. The importance of proper infant nutrition and the benefit of exclusive and extended breastfeeding for six month are recommended.