We have already read some articles that show that breastfeeding results in healthier adulthood. Babies that are breastfed grow up to have a lower incidence of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and several other medical conditions. Some research has even shown that there might be a relationship between being breastfed and muscle bulk. Breast milk is medicine!
In this project, researchers studied nearly 3,000 men and women in a geriatric population. They reviewed their infant medical records to find out whether or not they were breastfed as infants, either exclusively, partially, or not at all. They then measured grip strength using a standard dynamometer. The results showed that men who were exclusively breastfed had stronger grip strength; women did not show a difference in the strength of their grip.
This is powerful evidence for exclusive breastfeeding. As if there was not already enough evidence in terms of immune properties, nutrition, and mental health, now we know that if also improves muscle strength in at least men in at least their hands. Presumably the other muscles in the body are also improved. Most likely these findings would be found in women as well in different muscle groups. Fascinating!
Reference: Robinson SM, et al. “Muscle Strength in Older Community-Dwelling Men Is Related to Type of Milk Feeding in Infancy.” J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci (2012)
There is a growing literature that links greater duration and exclusivity of breastfeeding to beneficial effects on adult health outcomes. Muscle growth in the neonatal period may be very sensitive to variations in early nutrition, but little is known about long-term effects of infant feeding on muscle strength.
In 2,983 community-dwelling older men and women born 1931–1939, we examined the relationship between their type of milk feeding in infancy and their muscle strength in adult life. Information about milk feeding for each participant was abstracted from their infant record; grip strength was measured using a Jamar dynamometer.
Sixty percent (1,783) of the participants were breastfed only, 31% (926) were breast- and bottle-fed, and 9% (274) were bottle-fed only. There were no differences in type of milk feeding between men and women or according to social class at birth. Among the men studied, grip strength was related to the type of milk feeding, such that greater exposure to breast milk in infancy was associated with greater grip strength in adult life (p = .023). This association remained after adjustment for the effects of a range of confounding influences (birth weight, infant growth, height, age at measurement, adult diet, and level of physical activity). In contrast, the type of milk feeding in infancy was not related to grip strength among the women studied (p = .807).
These data suggest that in men, differences in nutritional exposure in the early postnatal period may have lifelong implications for muscle strength.