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Breastfeeding Can Save Nearly a Million Lives Every Year: Study

Update Date: Jan 29, 2016 01:54 PM EST

Numerous studies in the past have shown breastfeeding offers benefits to both mother and child but two papers published on Thursday, make the strongest case yet - breast cancer could prevent 823,000 child deaths and 20,000 deaths of women every year.

CNN termed the two-part study most detailed analysis available on the subject as it was based on review of more than 1,300 studies from across the world. The study found numerous benefits for the children, the most important being protection from infections. Mothers on the other hand could avail protection from breast and ovarian cancer.

"Our meta-analyses indicate protection against child infections and malocclusion, increases in intelligence, and probable reductions in overweight and diabetes," the report published in Lancet said. "For nursing women, breastfeeding gave protection against breast cancer and it improved birth spacing, and it might also protect against ovarian cancer and type-2 diabetes."

The study pointed out that only 37 percent of infants younger than 6 months are exclusively breastfed in low-income and middle-income countries while the duration of breastfeeding is shorted in high-income countries.

The report also pointed out decline in breastfeeding as a practice across the globe. For instance, China saw a five percent decrease in the practice between 2003 and 2008, reports NDTV. About 30 million dollars in treatment costs could be saved in China alone if breastfeeding saw a ten percent increase.

The meta-analysis also revealed the growth of the market for breast milk alternatives.

"The marketing of breast milk substitutes negatively affects breastfeeding: global sales in 2014 of US$44·8 billion show the industry's large, competitive claim on infant feeding," the report mentioned.

"Not breastfeeding is associated with lower intelligence and economic losses of about $302 billion annually or 0·49% of world gross national income."

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