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PITTSBURGH Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found that mothers who did not breast-feed their children have higher rates of Type 2 diabetes later in life compared with those who breast-fed.
"We have seen dramatic increases in the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes over the last century," stated Eleanor Schwarz, assistant professor of medicine, epidemiology, and obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Pittsburgh. "Diet and exercise are widely known to impact the risk of Type 2 diabetes, but few people realize that breast-feeding also reduces mothers' risk of developing the disease later in life by decreasing maternal belly fat."
The study, published in the September issue of the American Journal of Medicine, included 2,233 women between the ages of 40 and 78 years.
Overall, 56% of mothers reported they had breast-fed an infant for at least one month. Twenty-seven percent of mothers who did not breast-feed developed Type 2 diabetes and were almost twice as likely to develop the disease as women who had breast-fed or never given birth. In contrast, mothers who breast-fed all of their children were no more likely to develop diabetes than women who never gave birth. These long-term differences were notable even after considering age, race, physical activity, and tobacco and alcohol use.
"Our study provides another good reason to encourage women to breast-feed their infants, at least for the infant's first month of life," Schwarz added. "Clinicians need to consider women's pregnancy and lactation history when advising women about their risk for developing Type 2 diabetes."
The research was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and the National Institute of Child Health and Development.