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Breastfeeding is associated with reduced risk of multiple sclerosis in males, predominantly among HLA-DRB1*15:01 carriers

Breastfeeding as an infant appears protective against later development of some autoimmune diseases, but research into its influence on multiple sclerosis (MS) risk has yielded inconclusive results. We investigated the possible impact of breastfeeding on MS risk. We used two population-based case-control studies comprising 3670 cases and 6737 matched controls. Logistic regression was used to estimate odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for association between MS and exposure to prolonged breastfeeding (4 months or longer) versus reduced breastfeeding (less than 4 months). A meta-analysis of case-control studies that assessed the impact of breastfeeding on MS risk among women and men was conducted. Prolonged breastfeeding was associated with reduced MS risk among men (OR 0.7, 95% CI 0.5-0.9) but not among women (OR 0.9, 95% CI 0.8-1.1). Among men, a synergistic effect was observed between HLA-DRB1*15:01 carrier status and reduced breastfeeding. Findings from the current study add to accumulating evidence that breastfeeding may be a modifiable protective factor for reducing the risk of MS in offspring. When possible, mothers should be supported to breastfeed their infants; however, the mechanism of a sex-specific biologic effect of breastfeeding on MS risk is unclear.

Authors: Hedström AK; Adams C; Shao X; Schaefer C; Olsson T; Barcellos LF; Alfredsson L

Mult Scler J Exp Transl Clin. 2020 Apr-Jun;6(2):2055217320928101. Epub 2020-06-01.

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