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Not Breastfeeding Raises Type 2 Diabetes Risk

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Women who don’t breastfeed are found to have significantly higher rates of type 2 diabetes. Researchers say breastfeeding reduces belly fat, lowering the chances of type 2 diabetes later in life, yet few people recognize the connection.

A study published November 2006 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition also showed that breastfed babies were less likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life, compared to infants who were formula fed.

Breastfeeding for More Than One Month Reduces Type 2 Diabetes Risk

Women studied, who breastfed for more than one month, were found to have a lower incidence of diabetes, though researchers aren’t sure why. Breastfeeding improves lipid and glucose metabolism in the body and is also linked to increased insulin sensitivity in animal studies.

The researchers also suggest breastfeeding for more than one month helps women lose belly fat gained during pregnancy that is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Non child bearing women were not found to have a higher risk of diabetes because they never gain the visceral fat associated with pregnancy.

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Data for the study came from interviews and questionnaires. Women were asked if they breastfed for more than one month. Most of the women had given birth more than month and obesity was common.

The analysis only included the link between type 2 diabetes and women who breastfed more than 3 months and at least for 1 month. The authors say more studies are needed to find out if breastfeeding for less than one month also reduces diabetes risk later in life.

A limitation of the study was bias in reporting among the women. The authors say, “Prior research has found that women with shorter durations of lactation tend to overreport, while women with longer durations tend to underreport. “

Breast feeding for at least six months is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The authors say in 2006, only 14 percent of women followed those recommendations, though the benefits to infant health are well established. The new findings show there are benefits for mom as well.

The lower incidence of type 2 diabetes found among women studied adds to a growing body of evidence that breastfeeding should be supported. Women who give birth and fail to breastfeed may be putting themselves at risk for developing type 2 diabetes later in life and denying their infants important long term health benefits.

American Journal of Medicine