Tuesday December 10, 2019

Breast Milk Boosts Brain Development in Premature Babies

For the study, the team analysed MRI brain scans of a small number of babies

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Breastmilk
Breastmilk aids in combatting diseases in Newborns. Pixabay.

Premature babies fed with breast milk are more likely to have better brain development than those fed on formula milk, a new study has found.

According to studies, pre-term birth is associated with changes in the part of the brain’s structure that helps brain cells to communicate with one another, known as white matter.

However, this research showed that pre-term babies who exclusively received breast milk for at least three-quarters of the days spent in hospital showed improved brain connectivity, compared to babies who consumed less.

“Our findings suggest that brain development in the weeks after pre-term birth is improved in babies who receive greater amounts of breast milk,” said James Boardman, Director of the Jennifer Brown Research Laboratory at the University of Edinburgh.

“The study highlights the need for more research to understand the role of early life nutrition for improving long-term outcomes for pre-term babies, he added.

Premature birth is associated with the possibilities of an increased risk of the decline of cognitive skills in later life, which are thought to be linked to alterations in brain development.

Breast Milk
Breast milk may help boost preemies’ brain development. Pixabay

Helping mothers to provide breast milk in the weeks after giving birth could improve long-term outcomes for children born pre-term, the researchers noted, in the paper published in the journal NeuroImage.

“Mothers of pre-term babies should be supported to provide breast milk while their baby is in neonatal care — if they are able to and if their baby is well enough to receive milk — because this may give their children the best chance of healthy brain development,” Boardman said.

For the study, the team analysed MRI brain scans of a small number of babies.

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The babies were born before 33 weeks gestation and scans took place when they reached term-equivalent age, an average of 40 weeks from conception.

The effects were greatest in babies who were fed breast milk for a greater proportion of their time spent in intensive care. (IANS)

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Breast Milk May Prevent Heart Disease In Prematurely Born Infants: Study

Breastfeeding preterm babies may prevent heart disease

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Breast milk
Breast milk could play a vital role in preventing heart disease in prematurely born infants. Pixabay

Researchers have found that early use of breast milk could play a vital role in preventing heart disease in prematurely born infants.

One of the long-term health complications that young adults born prematurely may have is unique heart characteristics.

These can include smaller heart chambers, relatively higher blood pressure, and a disproportionate increase in muscle mass in the heart.

“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,” said study researcher Afif EL-Khuffash, Professor at The Rotunda Hospital, Dublin Ireland.

One study cited in the article looked at 30 preterm-born adults who were assigned to receive exclusive human milk and 16 preterm-born adults who were assigned to receive an exclusive formula-based diet during their hospital stay at birth.

They then underwent detailed cardiovascular assessment between 23 and 28 years of age, including an MRI of their hearts.

Breast milk- heart health
There is a strong link between early breast milk administrations and improvement in long-term heart health. Pixabay

As expected, all of the hearts of those born prematurely had smaller chambers than the hearts in people who were not born prematurely.

However, the study showed that the smaller heart chambers were less profound for the exclusively human milk-fed group in comparison to those who were exclusively formula fed, suggesting a potentially protective effect of human milk for heart structure.

The researchers then identified potential reasons for why breast milk results in a lower risk of heart disease.

Breast milk could help prevent heart disease by better regulating hormones and growth factors, strengthening the infant’s immune system, reducing inflammation and by possibly improving the metabolism of the child.

Identifying the key components within breast milk that result in improved heart health could pave the way for a more targeted approach to improve long-term cardiovascular wellbeing for those born prematurely.

The researchers said that more studies on the composition of breast milk could make clear exactly what causes these health benefits, which could in turn lead to better treatment options.

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The collaborative research group is continuing to study the effects of human milk exposure on heart function in very premature infants by using novel scans to measure heart function.

They hope to demonstrate that early human milk exposure in premature infants can lead to significant improvements in heart function over the first two years of age, said the study published in the journal Pediatric Research. (IANS)