Yesterday, we delivered some somber news regarding breastfeeding and grade III breast cancer tumors. Although we disagree with the previous study, we felt it was time to deliver some good news about the protection breastfeeding offers to women’s health.
According to an Australian study, motherhood increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life; however, mothers who do not breastfeed are 50% more likely to develop the disease.
Type 2 diabetes is the “most common form of diabetes”, according to the American Diabetes Association:
In type 2 diabetes, either the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells ignore the insulin. Insulin is necessary for the body to be able to use glucose for energy. When you eat food, the body breaks down all of the sugars and starches into glucose, which is the basic fuel for the cells in the body. Insulin takes the sugar from the blood into the cells. When glucose builds up in the blood instead of going into cells, it can lead to diabetes complications.
As part of the 45 and Up study, “the largest study of healthy ageing ever undertaken in the Southern Hemisphere”, researchers discovered the benefits of breastfeeding in diabetes prevention. 52,731 women were selected at random to participate in the study:
According to researchers from the University of Western Sydney’s School of Medicine, women who have given birth, but haven’t breastfed, have a 50 percent increased risk of diabetes compared to women who haven’t given birth…
“Giving birth to children does increase the risk of women developing diabetes later in life, but our study shows women can reduce the risk by breastfeeding their children,” says Dr Liu.
“We found that even breastfeeding each child for three months reduces the risks of diabetes for the mother – back to the same as that for women who have never given birth.”
In their analysis, the researchers took into account a woman’s age as well as other factors including body mass index, smoking, level of physical activity, family history of diabetes and socio-economic status.
Researchers aren’t sure exactly how or why breastfeeding helps prevent type 2 diabetes:
“It is possible breastfeeding and the hormonal changes it triggers may provide improved insulin sensitivity which lasts long after childbirth, but more research is needed to understand exactly what is happening,” says Dr Liu.
“While we may not yet know how breastfeeding helps protect mothers from diabetes, it is now clear the long-term health benefits of breastfeeding are no longer confined to just the child.”
Doesn’t this mean that breastfeeding doesn’t actually ‘reduce’ your risk, just that there is no net effect? Couldn’t we just be saying that having a baby but not breastfeeding increases the risk of diabetes?
Once again, breastfeeding is shown to be the biological norm. Having a child but not breastfeeding puts a mother at increased risk of a variety of things.
I know there are those who say we should focus on the positive spin rather than the negative. I just happen to lean towards the “show breastfeeding as the norm” camp. 🙂
Jennifer Lance says
Heather, I think that is a good way of looking at it. Breastfeeding as norm makes the risk similar to any other person, but just like the study on breast cancer, diet and exercise are probably more important!