Mothers Who Breastfeed Have a Reduced Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Data from the Potsdam EPIC* Study have now shown that women who have breastfed have about a 40 percent reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to women who did not breastfeed. Biomarker analyses conducted in the study indicate that prolonged breastfeeding is associated with a long-term improved metabolic profile of the mother. The data have now been published in the current issue of the journal Diabetologia.

The multicenter study was conducted by scientists of the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD) with the participation of the German Institute of Human Nutrition (DIfE), the Institute of Diabetes Research and Metabolic Diseases of Helmholtz Zentrum München at the University of Tübingen (IDM)  and with researchers of the Robert Koch Institute and the Charité in Berlin.

In this study, the researchers analyzed data from 1,262 mothers that had been collected in the Potsdam long-term observational study between 1994 and 2005. The epidemiologists used questionnaires to collect data on the duration of breastfeeding and on the lifestyle of the mother. In addition, they took blood samples at baseline and determined the body measurements of the study participants by direct measurements. They analyzed the blood samples with regard to various biomarkers related to lipid and glucose metabolism in the liver as well as inflammatory processes in the body. The aim was thus to obtain information on metabolic mechanisms that underlie the observed association between breastfeeding and type 2 diabetes.

As the researchers observed, breastfeeding is associated with a reduced risk of the mother of developing type 2 diabetes, independent of social status and lifestyle. The body mass index ** of the women, which was determined at baseline on average 20 years after the birth of the last child, could explain the observed risk relationship only in part, according to the available study data. The biomarker analyses suggest that longer duration of breastfeeding is associated – in addition to a favorable influence on body weight – with an improved metabolic profile. Thus, women who breastfed for a long time had on average lower blood lipid levels and higher adiponectin levels. Adiponectin is a hormone released from adipose tissue that has a favorable effect on lipid and glucose metabolism by improving, for example, insulin sensitivity of body cells.
“This is evidence that breastfeeding improves both the body weight and the metabolic situation of the body, which in turn reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes for mothers who breastfeed. Findings from other studies support our study results,” said Matthias Schulze (DIfE), who led the study. “Breastfeeding is not only good for the children, the mothers also benefit from it,” added Susanne Jäger, first author of the study.

Original publication
Susanne Jäger, Simone Jacobs, Janine Kröger, Andreas Fritsche, Anja Schienkiewitz, Diana Rubin, Heiner Boeing and Matthias B. Schulze:
Breast-feeding and maternal risk of type 2 diabetes: a prospective study and meta-analysis. Diabetologia 2014; DOI 10.1007/s00125-014-3247-3