Breastfeeding for 6 months cuts diabetes risk in half

Lawrence Kim
January 19, 2018

In fact, women who breast-fed more than six months had about half the risk for type 2 diabetes as did women who never breast-fed, according to Gunderson.

That produced information on more than 1,200 women for the new study.

Breastfeeding for less than six months was associated with a lower risk by a quarter, with lead author Erica Gunderson, a senior research scientist with the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in California, reporting: "We found a very strong association between breastfeeding duration and lower risk of developing diabetes, even after accounting for all possible confounding risk factors".

These conclusions are valid for women of any ethnic origin, they said.

Pediatricians recommend that mothers exclusively breastfeed infants until they're at least six months old because it can reduce babies' risk of ear and respiratory infections, sudden infant death syndrome, allergies, obesity and diabetes. Each delivered at least one baby, and none had diabetes before the study began. "The specific benefits for women's health have been less recognized".

The study included 1,238 black and white women who did not have diabetes when they enrolled in CARDIA, or prior to their subsequent pregnancies.

The protective effect of breast-feeding didn't differ by race or the presence of gestational diabetes, the study found.

The Kaiser Permanente research, published Tuesday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, is based on an analysis of data from participants in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study.

By the end of the 30-year study, 182 of the women had developed type 2 diabetes.

Still, Kumar said: "I loved this study".

"A mother's supply of milk will adjust to meet the diminished demand", Yourkavitch said by email. Other studies have shown that when women breast-feed, their triglycerides (a type of blood fat) and blood sugar levels return to normal more quickly.

"They can still work on losing weight via lifestyle modifications and increasing physical activity as a prevention strategy", Washio said by email.

Researchers were also able to account for pre-pregnancy metabolic risk, including obesity and fasting glucose and insulin, lifestyle behaviours, family history of diabetes, and perinatal outcomes.

The findings support previous studies which have also suggested that breastfeeding offers substantial health benefits for both mother and baby.

"This is major news", Feldman-Winter added.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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