Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of risk factors linked to both diabetes and
heart disease, including elevated blood pressure, insulin resistance, and belly
The new study is one of the most rigorously designed trials ever to explore
the impact of breastfeeding on such risk factors.
Researchers examined data on 704 women who were followed for two decades,
starting before their first pregnancy.
Because the women were enrolled in a larger heart disease risk study, the
researchers had information on wide range of health and lifestyle factors. None
of the women had metabolic syndrome at enrollment, but 120 developed the
condition during the 20 years of follow-up.
In the population as a whole, breastfeeding for longer than nine months was
associated with a 56% reduction in risk for developing metabolic syndrome
during the follow-up period.
In women who developed gestational diabetes during one or more pregnancies,
the risk reduction was 86%.
Gestational diabetes is a major predictor of type 2 diabetes. Women who
develop diabetes during pregnancy have a fourfold greater risk for developing
type 2 diabetes, lead researcher Erica P. Gunderson, PhD, tells WebMD.
“Our study is the first to examine lactation and metabolic syndrome in women
with this risk factor,” she says. “Our findings indicate that this very
vulnerable group may benefit from breastfeeding.”
Breastfeeding for as little as a month or two appeared to convey some
benefit, but not as much as longer lactation.
The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and will be
published in the February, 2010, issue of the journal Diabetes.
Breastfeeding May Lower Belly Fat
There is some evidence that women who breastfeed lose pregnancy weight
quicker and that they lead healthier lifestyles than new mothers who do not