Breastfeeding in infancy protects against the future development of Crohn’s disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC), according to new research.

Xu et al. conducted a systematic search of 35 studies, comprising of 7,536 individuals with CD, 7,353 with UC, and 330,222 controls to examine the association between breastfeeding in infancy and risk of future CD and UC. 

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The researchers found that ever being breastfed was associated with a lower risk of CD and UC (OR 0.71, 95% CI 0.59-0.85 and OR 0.78, 95% CI 0.67-0.91 respectively). Although this association was observed in all ethnic groups, the level of protection was significantly greater among Asians (OR 0.31, 95% CI 0.20-0.48) compared to Caucasians (OR 0.78, 95% CI 0.66-0.93; P=0.0001) in CD, the researchers found.

The protection conferred by breastfeeding increased with duration of breastfeeding, with strongest decrease in risk seen when the child was breastfed for at least 12 months for CD (OR 0.20, 95% CI 0.08-0.50) and UC (OR 0.21, 95% CI 0.10-0.43), versus 3 or 6 months.

The researchers concluded that breastfeeding confers protection against the development of CD and UC.


Xu L, Lochhead P, Ko Y, et al. Systematic review with meta-analysis: breastfeeding and the risk of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2017 Nov;46(9):780-789.