It is known that having children increases the chances of women developing Type 2 diabetes in later life. New research shows that breastfeeding can reduce this risk to the same level as that of women who have never had children.
Australian researchers studying 53,700 women over 45 found that diabetes rates were similar for women with children and those who had remained childless. But among women with children, each year of breastfeeding was associated with a 14 percent reduction in diabetes risk.
Compared to childless women, women who’d had children and never breastfed were 50 percent more likely to have Type 2 diabetes. However if mothers had breastfed each child for at least 3 months, the risk was not elevated.
Researchers analyzed a number of other factors that could affect a woman’s likelihood of developing diabetes — including age, weight, family history of diabetes, reported exercise habits and education and income levels. When those issues were factored out, breastfeeding remained linked to the odds of having diabetes.
The study was retrospective, which means that it relied upon the memory of breastfeeding. It was a correlation which does not prove causation.
Lead researcher, Dr. Bette Liu speculated that the hormonal changes that come with breastfeeding may have lasting effects on how a woman’s body processes blood sugar,
Liu B, Jorm L, Banks E. PARITY, BREASTFEEDING AND THE SUBSEQUENT RISK OF MATERNAL TYPE 2 DIABETES. Diabetes Care. 2010 Mar 23. [Epub ahead of print]PMID: 20332359
Taylor JS, Kacmar JE, Nothnagle M, Lawrence RA.A systematic review of the literature associating breastfeeding with type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes. J Am Coll Nutr.2005 Oct;24(5):320-6.
Women Who Breastfeed Have Lower Diabetes Risk. Diabetes in Control. #516