Breastfeeding is a modifiable factor that may influence development of inflammatory bowel diseases.
However, literature on this has been inconsistent and not accounted for heterogeneity in populations and exposure.
Dr Ananthakrishnan and colleagues from Massachussetts, USA conducted a meta-analysis to examine the association between breastfeeding in infancy and risk of Crohn's disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC).
The team performed a systematic search of Medline/PubMed and Embase or full text, English-language literature through 2016.
Studies were included if they described breastfeeding in infancy in patients with CD or UC, and healthy controls.
|A total of 35 studies were included in the final analysis|
|Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics|
Data were pooled using a random effects model for analysis.
A total of 35 studies were included in the final analysis, comprizing 7536 individuals with CD, 7353 with UC and 330,222 controls.
The researchers found that ever being breastfed was associated with a lower risk of CD and UC.
The team observed that while this inverse association was observed in all ethnicity groups, the magnitude of protection was significantly greater among Asians compared to Caucasians in CD.
The team noted that breastfeeding duration showed a dose-dependent association, with strongest decrease in risk when breastfed for at least 12 months for CD and UC as compared to 3 or 6 months.
Dr Ananthakrishnan's team concludes, "Breastfeeding in infancy protects against the development of CD and ulcerative colitis."