Women who breastfeed for more than a year reduce their chance of rheumatoid arthritis by half, research suggests.
Sweden's Malmo University Hospital compared 136 women with the condition to 544 without for the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases study. They found women who had breastfed for 13 months or more were half as likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis as those who had never breastfed.
Those who breastfed for between one and 12 months had a 25% decreased risk.
The study also found that simply having children and not breastfeeding did not seem to protect the women against developing rheumatoid arthritis.
Around 400,000 people in the UK have the condition. The study notes that women have more than a two-fold higher incidence of than men.
It is known that breastfeeding is linked to raised levels of a hormone called oxytocin, which can reduce stress hormone levels, lower blood pressure and induce well-being. However, breastfeeding also raises levels of another hormone - prolactin - which is known to stimulate the immune system, and may actually raise the risk of rheumatoid arthritis.
Source - BBC