Women who breastfeed for at least 12 months are 30% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes and 13% less likely to develop hypertension during 10 years of follow-up when compared with women who never breastfed, according to a meta-analysis of more than 200,000 women published in JAMA Network Open.
“Most recent data on breastfeeding have focused on the effects on the baby, but few studies have truly investigated the long-term effects on mothers,” Haitham Ahmed, MD, MPH, FACC, FAHA, chair of cardiology for AdvantageCare Physicians, told Endocrine Today. “This study really shows the extension of benefits to the mother as well. Pregnancy is associated with an adverse metabolic profile for mothers, including higher cholesterol, higher triglycerides and worse glucose intolerance. On the other hand, breastfeeding results in the consumption of 500 calories per day, higher catabolism and mobilization of fat stores. In many ways, it can be a ‘reset’ to the adverse metabolic profile in pregnancy.”
In a systematic review and meta-analysis, Ahmed and colleagues analyzed data from six studies of adult women that specified a duration of breastfeeding for at least 12 months, evaluating primary hypertension and diabetes as primary outcomes. Four of the studies assessed the association between lactation and diabetes (n = 206,204) and five analyzed the association between hypertension and breastfeeding (n = 255,271). Mean follow-up time across studies was 9.6 years. Researchers pooled data using random-effects models.
Researchers found that breastfeeding for more than 12 months was associated with a relative risk reduction of 30% for diabetes (pooled OR = 0.7; 95% CI, 0.62-0.78) and a relative risk reduction of 13% for hypertension (pooled OR = 0.87; 95% CI, 0.78-0.97).
Women who breastfeed for at least 12 months are 30% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes and 13% less likely to develop hypertension during 10 years of follow-up when compared with women who never breastfed.
“Many women are not able to breastfeed, but for those who are, that may be an excellent way to improve the long-term CV and metabolic health of new mothers,” Ahmed said. “For health care practitioners, counseling new mothers on these benefits is a low-risk intervention that could result in positive CV impacts for patients.”
Ahmed noted that there were not enough data to analyze hard CV events.
“Longer-term studies are needed to truly assess the impact of lactation on hard outcomes for mothers,” Ahmed said. “As CVD continues to be the leading cause of death for women, greater emphasis is needed on upstream prevention targets, and particularly at times of metabolic vulnerability such as pregnancy.” – by Regina Schaffer
For more information:
Haitham Ahmed, MD, MPH, FACC, FAHA, can be reached at AdvantageCare Physicians, 101 Pennsylvania Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11207; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.