Breast-Feeding Lowers Infant Risk of Stomach Infection

July 21, 2008

Infants of low-income women who are predominantly breast-fed have a lower risk of gastrointestinal infection but a higher risk of iron deficiency than infants who are partially or entirely formula-fed, according to the results of a study published in the August issue of the Journal of Nutrition.

MONDAY, July 21 (HealthDay News) -- Infants of low-income women who are predominantly breast-fed have a lower risk of gastrointestinal infection but a higher risk of iron deficiency than infants who are partially or entirely formula-fed, according to the results of a study published in the August issue of the Journal of Nutrition.

Eva C. Monterrosa, from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, and colleagues surveyed 154 low-income women in Guadalajara, Mexico, who gave birth to a healthy full-term infant regarding their infant feeding methods and symptoms of gastrointestinal infection in their infants. Iron status was assessed in the infants at 6 months of age. Serum ferritin less than 12 μg/L was considered iron deficiency, while hemoglobin less than 110 g/L was considered anemia.

The researchers found that infants who were predominantly breast-fed had a significantly lower risk of gastrointestinal infection (18 versus 33 percent, adjusted odds ratio 0.4) but a significantly higher risk of iron deficiency (22 versus 4 percent, adjusted odds ratio 9.2) compared with infants who were partially or entirely formula-fed. Anemia was not significantly different among predominantly breast-fed, partially breast-fed and formula-fed infants, the report indicates.

"In this low-income population, our results suggest that predominantly breast-feeding should be promoted and the risk for iron deficiency managed using public health and nutrition strategies," Monterrosa and colleagues conclude.

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