Objective. To examine the influence of infant feeding method on serum total cholesterol (TC) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.
Methods. A cross-sectional study of 13- to 16-year-olds and a systematic review of studies (all observational) on the effects of infant feeding on cholesterol in infancy (<1 year), childhood or adolescence (1–16 years), and adulthood (≥17 years) were conducted using random effects models. Differences are presented as breastfed-bottle-fed. A total of 1532 individuals (92% white; 55% male; mean age: 15.1 years) in 10 British towns were studied, and 37 studies with 52 observations on TC (26 in infancy, 17 in childhood or adolescence, and 9 in adulthood; corresponding figures for LDL were 7, 4, and 6) were reviewed.
Results. Mean TC in childhood or adolescence (including the new study) was not related to infant feeding pattern (mean TC difference = 0.00; 95% confidence interval [CI]: −0.07 to 0.07 mmol/L). However, in infancy, mean TC was higher among those breastfed (mean TC difference = 0.64; 95% CI: 0.50–0.79 mmol/L), whereas in adults, mean TC was lower among those breastfed (mean TC difference = −0.18; 95% CI: −0.30 to −0.06 mmol/L). Patterns for LDL were similar to those for TC throughout.
Conclusions. Breastfeeding is associated with increased mean TC and LDL levels in infancy but lower levels in adulthood/adult life. These results suggest that breastfeeding may have long-term benefits for cardiovascular health and may have implications for the content of formula feed milks.