×

Women Who Breastfed Cut Their Diabetes Risk Nearly in Half, Study Finds

Getty Images

Women who breastfeed for several months may receive an unexpected health benefit later on, according to newly published research. A long-term national study found that breastfeeding for 6 months or longer cuts the risk of developing type 2 diabetes nearly in half for women throughout their childbearing years.

The study, published in <a target="blank" href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/2668634?redirect=true">JAMA Internal Medicine_ by Kaiser Permanente, included 1,238 women who did not have diabetes at the beginning of the 30-year study. All the women had at least one live birth throughout those 30 years and were routinely screened for diabetes. The participants also reported their lifestyle behaviors — including how long they breastfed their children.

"We found a very strong association between breastfeeding duration and lower risk of developing diabetes, even after accounting for all possible confounding risk factors," said lead author Erica P. Gunderson, PhD.

Interestingly enough, the incidence of diabetes decreased as breastfeeding duration increased, regardless of other factors such as race, lifestyle behaviors, and body size measured before pregnancy, according to Dr. Gunderson. She said there is a possibility that the underlying mechanism may be biological.

Meanwhile, Tracy Flanagan, MD, director of women's health for Kaiser Permanente Northern California, explained what made this breastfeeding study different from others that had come before it.

"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," Dr. Flanagan said. "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."

h/t Science Daily

More from FIRST

93 Percent of Receipts Contain Chemicals Linked to Diabetes, Asthma, and Cancer

Having BRCA Cancer Gene Might Not Be as Dire as Previously Thought

Sick as a Dog: Why the Dog Flu Is Hitting Pups Harder Than Usual This Season