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More Evidence Showing Breastfeeding Protects Against Type 2 Diabetes

Posted: Thursday, November 30, 2006

Breastfeeding in infancy appears to be associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes later in life, according to a quantitative analysis of published evidence.

Dr. Christopher G. Owen who led the study, stated that, "Whether this effect is attributed to a difference in the content of breast milk compared to formula milk, or whether the family environment and nurture of infants breast fed differs from those formula fed remains to be established."

In either case, breast milk is "the food of choice in infancy, based on numerous short- and long-term health benefits," added Owen, of St. George's, University of London.

Because evidence from individual studies that examined the relationship between breastfeeding and the risk of type 2 diabetes has been inconsistent, Owen's team conducted a systematic review and pooled analysis of relevant studies published in the medical literature on the topic.

In seven studies involving 76,744 subjects, those who were breastfed as infants had a 39-percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes in adulthood. The findings of these seven studies were "broadly consistent, despite widely differing nature of the populations," the authors note in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

In six studies involving 4,800 subjects, levels of insulin -- the body's key blood sugar-regulating hormone -- were marginally lower in breastfed non-diabetic children and adults compared with formula-fed non-diabetic children and adults.

In these studies, fasting blood sugar concentrations were no different in breastfed and formula fed children and adults. However, in infancy, breastfeeding was consistently related to lower concentrations of blood sugar and insulin than was formula feeding. Chronically high levels of insulin raise the risk of heart disease and exacerbate the effect of diabetes.

"On the basis of the published evidence, breastfeeding may provide a degree of long-term protection against the development of type 2 diabetes, which could be of public health importance," Owen and colleagues conclude.



Source: Diabetes In Control: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, November 2006

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