December 04, 2015
3 min read

Breast-feeding reduces diabetes incidence in mothers, offspring

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Nonindigenous Canadian mothers who initiated breast-feeding in the hospital reduced their risk for diabetes by 23%, whereas their offspring experienced an 18% risk reduction for developing the disease, according to study findings presented at the World Diabetes Congress.

In a population-based analysis of more than 330,000 live births during a 24-year period in Manitoba, researchers also found that indigenous women saw a 14% risk reduction for diabetes when they initiated breast-feeding.

“Every mother should try to initiate breast-feeding if she can, no matter how long the duration, to receive beneficial effects ... including reducing the risk for diabetes,” Garry X. Shen, MD, PhD, professor of internal medicine and human nutritional sciences co-chair, Endocrine Research Group, University of Manitoba, told Endocrine Today. “This is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce type 2 diabetes in women and their offspring.”

Shen and colleagues analyzed hospital records from 334,553 deliveries (60,088 First Nation births) taking place in Manitoba between 1987 and 2011. Within the cohort, 262,124 women initiated breast-feeding in the hospital (mean age, 28 years; 13% First Nations; 2.9% with gestational diabetes), and 72,429 did not initiate breast-feeding (mean age, 26 years; 36% First Nations; 4.2% with gestational diabetes), according to hospital records that note breast-feeding initiation at discharge. Researchers also determined diabetes status through hospital records.

Breast-feeding initiation was associated with significantly lower incidence of diabetes in mothers and offspring without a history of gestational diabetes, although First Nations women maintained a higher risk than non-First Nations women (HR = 0.888 vs. 0.745). Women with a history of gestational diabetes also saw a reduced risk for subsequent diabetes, with First Nations women again maintaining a higher risk vs. non-First Nations women (HR = 0.826 vs. 0.821).

Researchers found that First Nations status did not significantly affect the association between breast-feeding and incident diabetes for offspring and, therefore, pooled analyses, finding that children of mothers who initiated breast-feeding had an 18% reduced risk for diabetes (adjusted HR = 0.83; 95% CI, 0.69-0.99).

The protective effects of breast-feeding observed in mothers and children were independent of First Nations status, gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension, maternal age, birth weight and socioeconomic factors, according to researchers.

“We need to determine the impact of duration and exclusive/partial breast-feeding on diabetes and obesity,” Shen told Endocrine Today. “We plan to conduct a long-term, prospective study on breast-feeding and the development of diabetes in mothers and offspring.” by Regina Schaffer


Martens PJ, et al. Abstract #0511. Presented at: World Diabetes Congress; Nov. 30-Dec. 4, 2015; Vancouver, British Columbia.

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.