Breastfeeding can reduce a woman's risk of developing metabolic syndrome, a condition linked to heart disease and diabetes, a new study has found.
According to Kaiser Permanente study, 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 Metabolic Syndrome is a clustering of risk factors related to obesity and metabolism that strongly predicts future diabetes and possibly, coronary heart disease during midlife and early death for women," said study's lead author, Erica Gunderson, PhD, an epidemiologist and research scientist at Kaiser Permanente's Division of Research in Oakland, Calif.
"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," she added.
Among the 704 women who were aged 18 to 30 years at enrollment, had never previously given birth and were free of Metabolic Syndrome before all their pregnancies, there were 120 new cases of Metabolic Syndrome after pregnancies during 20 years of follow-up.
"Postpartum screening of risk factors for diabetes and heart disease may offer an important opportunity for primary prevention," adds Gunderson.
Previous research has shown that lactating women have more favourable blood levels of glucose and lipids within several weeks after delivery than women who were not lactating.
Other studies have reported much weaker protective associations of breastfeeding with the presence of Metabolic Syndrome and diabetes in middle-aged and older women.
The study appears in Diabetes, a journal of the American Diabetes Association.