Longer Lactation Duration Associated with Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

The duration of lactation was found to be a favorable glucose metabolic biomarker profile among women with a history of gestational diabetes mellitus.

Longer duration of lactation is associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes (T2D) and has also been found to be a favorable glucose metabolic biomarker profile among women with a history of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM). The study was published in the American Diabetes Association’s Diabetes Care journal.

The Nurses’ Health Study II examined the association between lactation duration and the incidence of T2D among women with a history of GDM. A research team at the National Institute of Health monitored 4372 women aged 25 years and older with a history of GDM for incident T2D through 2017.

Lactation history was obtained through follow-up questionnaires to calculate lactation duration. Follow-up blood samples were collected from a subset of the women with a median age of 58 years through the Diabetes & Women’s Health Study.

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The study authors documented 873 incident cases of aged 25 years and older during 87,411 person-years of follow-up.

Longer duration of lactation, which was associated with a lower risk of T2D for total lactation, was compared with women with gestational diabetes who had not breastfed. Those who breastfed for 6 to 12 months were 9% less likely to develop T2D, those who breastfed for 1 to 2 years were 15% less likely, and those who breastfed for more than 2 years were 27% less likely.

The association was also found in exclusive breastfeeding after adjusting for age, ethnicity, family history of diabetes, parity, age at first birth, smoking, diet quality, physical activity, and pre-pregnancy body mass index.

Researchers found that longer duration of lactation is associated with a lower risk of T2D and a favorable glucose metabolic biomarker profile among women with a history of GDM. Longer duration of lactation was also associated with lower HbA1c, fasting plasma insulin, and C-peptide concentrations among women without T2D at follow-up.

The researchers suggested that health care providers encourage patients with gestational diabetes to breastfeed if they are able to in order to potentially reduce their T2D risk. They additionally noted that further research is needed to determine the underlying mechanisms and impact on diabetes complications, morbidity, and mortality.

Reference

  • Ley, S, Chavarro, J, Li, Mengying, et al. Lactation Duration and Long-Term Risk for Incident Type 2 Diabetes in Women with a History of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus. Diabetes Care 2020 Feb; dc192237. https://doi.org/10.2337/dc19-2237. Accessed February 17, 2020.
  • Breastfeeding may reduce type 2 diabetes risk among women with gestational diabetes, NIH study suggests [news release]. Published February 14, 2020. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/breastfeeding-may-reduce-type-2-diabetes-risk-among-women-gestational-diabetes-nih-study-suggests. Accessed February 17, 2020.