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Breastfeeding cuts risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus

Women who did not breastfeed their children are at higher risk for type 2 diabetes mellitus later in life than those who did, according to a new study published in the Sept 2010 issue of the American Journal of Medicine.

The study led by Eleanor Bimla Schwarz, M.D., M.S., at the University of Pittsburgh found that women who did not breastfeed their children were almost twice as likely as those who did to develop type 2 diabetes mellitus.

For the study, the researchers analyzed data from 2,233 women aged 40 to 78.  About 56 percent of women reported they had breastfed an infant for at least one month.

Twenty seven percent of women who did not breastfeed their children developed type 2 diabetes, the study found.  In comparison, those who did breastfeed their children were more unlikely to develop the disease.

"Our study provides another good reason to encourage women to breastfeed their infants, at least for the infant's first month of life," said Dr. Schwarz. "Clinicians need to consider women's pregnancy and lactation history when advising women about their risk for developing type 2 diabetes."

The researchers speculated that breastfeeding can help cut belly fat, which is linked with type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Breastfeeding was also associated in previous studies with lower risk of breast cancer. And children breastfed were less likely to get infections.

Type 2 diabetes mellitus affects an estimated 20 million Americans. The disease, considered a Western disease, is believed to have something to do with lifestyle. A healthy diet or healthy lifestyle may help prevent or even reverse the disease.