What effect does breastfeeding have on diabetes?

Scientists analysed data from a major investigation of heart disease risk factors. The data showed that mothers who breastfeed for at least six months, have half the chance of developing late-onset diabetes than mothers who don’t.

The study

Researchers too data from approximately 5000 adults aged 18 – 30. In this group, the women who breastfed their children for at least six months were 47 per cent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life.

Lead investigator Dr Erica Gunderson, from the US care provider Kaiser Perminante, said: “We found a very strong association between breastfeeding duration and lower risk of developing diabetes, even after accounting for all possible confounding risk factors.” The findings of the study have been published in the Jama Internal Medicine journal.

What is gestational diabetes and how can you avoid it?

There is also research to suggest that breastfeeding can reduce the risk of ovarian cancer and breast cancer in mothers. “The incidence of diabetes decreased in a graded manner as breastfeeding duration increased, regardless of race, gestational diabetes, lifestyle behaviours, body size, and other metabolic risk factors measured before pregnancy, implying the possibility that the underlying mechanism may be biological.”

Hormones associated with breastfeeding may have an effect on the pancreatic cells that blood insulin levels, the scientists believe.

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