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Breastfeeding Reduces Risk of Typ 2 Diabetes

Women with gestational diabetes who breastfeed their baby have a 40 percent reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes over the long term. Especially mothers who breastfeed longer than three months benefit from this protective long-term effect.

Breastfeeding is healthy – this is true not only for the baby, but apparently also for the mother. If she develops gestational diabetes during pregnancy, she can reduce her risk of developing type 2 diabetes by about 40 percent through breastfeeding. Gestational diabetes is a metabolic disorder limited to pregnancy that increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes after delivery. Impaired insulin release and reduced insulin sensitivity result in this metabolic disorder characterized by elevated blood glucose levels. Women who had to be treated with insulin during pregnancy bear the greatest type 2 diabetes risk: Almost two thirds of this group of participants of a gestational diabetes study developed type 2 diabetes within three years after delivery; within 15 years even more than 90 percent developed type 2 diabetes postpartum.

Previous studies reported a short-term positive effect of breastfeeding on the metabolism of the mother. These studies indicate that breastfeeding for one to three months improves lipid and glucose metabolism and reduces estrogen levels during that time. Apparently even three years after birth, breastfeeding influences the concentration of two hormones that control hunger and satiety: the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin and the hormone PYY, which mediates a feeling of satiety. The novelty of this study presented here is the finding that breastfeeding prevents type 2 diabetes in the mother even over the long term.

According to the findings of the Institute of Diabetes Research, the duration of breastfeeding is crucial: Only those who breastfed for more than three months had a 15-year risk of 42 percent of developing type 2 diabetes compared to 72 percent in mothers who breastfed less than 3 months. The test subjects were able to reduce their diabetes risk even more if they fed their baby during this period exclusively with breast milk (15-year risk of 34.8 percent). By breastfeeding, the participants were able to delay the development of type 2 diabetes by an average of ten years. Now the aim of the research group led by Anette-Gabriele Ziegler is to investigate the mechanisms that are responsible for this long-term effect of breastfeeding.

Gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) increases the mother’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes later on. One woman in two develops type 2 diabetes within ten years after delivery, although initially her blood glucose levels returned to normal after pregnancy. In Germany gestational diabetes occurs in about four percent of all pregnancies.

[Translate to Englisch:]

Cumulative incidence of a subsequent development of type 2 diabetes in women who had gestational diabetes during pregnancy: Subjects who breastfed longer than three months had a significantly reduced risk of developing the disease.; Source: HMGU