Issue 15, January 2010
4. Breastfeeding lowers the risk of Diabetes and Heart Disease

    A Kaiser Permanente study, (whose participants were from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) Study, that was published online in Diabetes, a journal of the American Diabetes Association) reveals that breastfeeding may lower a woman's risk of metabolic syndrome, a key heart disease and diabetes predictor. The study's lead author, Erica Gunderson, PhD noted that the risk reduction is prominently observed in those with Gestational Diabetes. Breastfeeding a child lowers risk by 39 to 56 percent (depending on the duration of breastfeeding) for women without gestational diabetes, and 44 to 86 percent (depending on the duration of breastfeeding) for women with gestational diabetes.

    The study report complements previous observations that lactating women have more favourable blood levels of glucose and lipids within several weeks after delivery than women who were not lactating. "The findings indicate that breastfeeding a child may have lasting favourable effects on a woman's risk factors for later developing diabetes or heart disease," Gunderson said, explaining that the benefits don't appear to be due to differences in weight gain, physical activity, or other health behaviours. However, in this study, less belly fat and higher levels of good cholesterol (HDL-C) were seen in women who did not develop metabolic syndrome, she added.

    Recent studies suggest a stronger link between metabolic syndrome to diabetes than coronary heart disease. Another recent Kaiser Permanente study by Gunderson published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in August 2009 found that women with gestational diabetes are 2.5 times more likely to develop metabolic syndrome after pregnancy. But fortunately lactation has persistent favourable effects on women's cardio metabolic health.

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