Breastfeeding associated with lower type 2 diabetes risk

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Women who breastfeed for six months or more could be less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, according to a major US study.
Researchers found this time spent breastfeeding was linked to a 47% reduced risk of type 2 diabetes compared to those who opted for bottle feeding.
The findings support previous studies which have also suggested that breastfeeding offers substantial health benefits for both mother and baby. It is already known to help control insulin and blood sugar levels, while also helping new mums lose excess pregnancy weight.
A total of 1,238 black and white women were examined, all of whom took part in a heart study entitled Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) in 1985. None of them had diabetes when they first joined up, or before they became pregnant.
The study did not rely on the participants self-reporting their health, instead they were screened regularly before and after their pregnancies to ensure accurate readings. Among the criteria, participants were asked to report on their lifestyle habits, including diet and exercise, as well as their breastfeeding choices.
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.”
Dr Tracy Flanagan, director of women’s health for Kaiser Permanente Northern California, said: “We have known for a long time that breastfeeding has many benefits both for mothers and babies, however, previous evidence showed only weak effects on chronic disease in women.
“Now we see much stronger protection from this new study showing that mothers who breastfeed for months after their delivery, may be reducing their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to one half as they get older. This is yet another reason that doctors, nurses, and hospitals as well as policymakers should support women and their families to breastfeed as long as possible.”
According to the NHS, it is thought in the UK more than 73 per cent of mothers choose to breastfeed. Breastfeeding is thought to protect children from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), childhood leukaemia, obesity, cardiovascular disease and also type 2 diabetes in later life.
However, breastfeeding is a personal choice for each woman as they may encounter problems such as cracked or sore nipples, engorged breasts or latching on problems. It is important expectant women or new mothers speak to their midwife to gather as much information as they can in a bid to make an informed decision about how they plan to feed their baby.
The study findings have been published in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal.