Breastfeeding Reduces Risk of Multiple Sclerosis
A 2017 study
of 830 women by Langer-Gould A, et al published in the journal Neurology
found that breastfeeding may reduce the risk of multiple sclerosis (MS). This study showed that women who breastfed for a total of at least 15 months over one or more pregnancies were 53 percent less likely to develop MS or its precursor. Previous studies showed that women with MS have less symptoms of the disease during pregnancy. The authors speculate this may have to do with lack of ovulation during breastfeeding.
The onset of menstruation also seemed to play a role as women who were 15 years or older at the time of their first period were 44 percent less likely to develop MS in the future.
While MS is not hereditary, having a first-degree relative, such as a parent or sibling with MS, does significantly increase an individual’s risk of developing the disease. Studies have shown that there is a higher prevalence of certain genes in populations with higher rates of MS. It is considered an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues. In the case of MS, this immune system malfunction destroys myelin. MS patients have a reduced quality of life and disabilities.
This study is another example of the protective effects breastfeeding offers to mothers. Other benefits include reduced risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.