A mother who breastfed her children has a considerably lower risk of developing Diabetes Type 2 when she is older, compared to a woman who had children but never breastfed, according to an article published in the American Journal of Medicine. Women who never gave birth have the same risk as women who breastfeed their children

A woman who has never breastfed at all runs nearly twice the risk of developing diabetes, compared to women who never gave birth, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh revealed.

Eleanor Bimla Schwarz, M.D., M.S., assistant professor of medicine, epidemiology, and obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Pittsburgh, said:

We have seen dramatic increases in the prevalence of type 2 diabetes over the last century. Diet and exercise are widely known to impact the risk of type 2 diabetes, but few people realize that breastfeeding also reduces mothers’ risk of developing the disease later in life by decreasing maternal belly fat.

The study involved 2,233 women aged between 40 and 78 years. Approximately 56% of them said they had breastfed for a month or more.

The study found that:

  • 27% of women who had children but never breastfed at all developed diabetes type 2.
  • Women who had had children and never breastfed were almost twice as likely to develop diabetes type 2 as women who had never given birth.
  • Women who had breastfed all their infants ran the same risk of developing diabetes type 2 as women who had never given birth.

The scientists inform that these long-term differences persisted even after certain factors were taken into account, such as age, race, physical activity, smoking and alcohol consumption.

Dr. Schwarz said:

Our study provides another good reason to encourage women to breastfeed their infants, at least for the infant’s first month of life. Clinicians need to consider women’s pregnancy and lactation history when advising women about their risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

There are three main types of diabetes:

  • Diabetes Type 1 – You produce no insulin at all. This is an autoimmune disease – the person’s body has destroyed his/her own insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. Most patients with Diabetes Type 1 developed the condition before the age of 40. Approximately 15% of all people with diabetes have Type 1.
  • Diabetes Type 2 – You don’t produce enough insulin, or your insulin is not working properly. The majority of people with Type 2 have developed the condition because they are overweight. Type 2 generally appears later on in life, compared to Type 1.
  • Gestational Diabetes – You develop diabetes just during your pregnancy.

“Lactation and Maternal Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: A Population-based Study”
Eleanor Bimla Schwarz MD, MS, Jeanette S. Brown MD, Jennifer M. Creasman MPH, Alison Stuebe MD, MSc, Candace K. McClure PhD, Stephen K. Van Den Eeden PhD and David Thom MD, PhD
The American Journal of Medicine. Volume 123, Issue 9, September 2010, Pages 863.e1-863.e6

Written by Christian Nordqvist