Breasts Battle Childhood Obesity

Breastfed children of diabetic and regular pregnancies have lower likelihood of obesity

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Children born to women with diabetes are more likely to be obese, but one way moms can reduce this risk is to breastfeed their babies. And the pattern is true for non-diabetics too.

Children who nursed for at least six months were slower to put on weight as they grew up compared to those who breastfed for fewer than six months in a recent study.

"Breastfeed for your baby for at least six months."

Led by epidemiologist Tesse Crume, Ph.D., MSPH, at the Colorado School of Public Health, researchers tracked 94 diabetic pregnancies and 399 non-diabetic pregnancies until the children were 13 years old.

The children were part of the Exploring Perinatal Outcomes Among Children Study, and researchers measured the kids' BMI from birth throughout their first 13 years.

They found babies of both groups had a lower risk of obesity if they were breastfed at least half a year, the minimum recommended by the American Academy of Pediatricians.

The biggest comparative slowing of weight gain for children born of diabetic pregnancies occurred among children between 4 and 9 years old. For children of mothers without diabetes, the slower BMI growth was generally constant throughout most of childhood.

"Breast-feeding support represents an important clinical and public health strategy to reduce the risk of childhood obesity," said Crume.

According to Gail Gresham, MPH and lactation consultant with Seton Family of Hospitals in Austin, Texas, previous studies have also hinted that breastfeeding may play a part in preventing diabetes.

"Insulin is in breastmilk, not in formula," Gresham told dailyRx. "Oral administration of insulin activates the gut immune system as well as helps the baby's body understand how to use it. We see a reduction in type 1 and type 2 diabetes with breastfed infants."

The next step, then, is to provide women with the help to ensure they can be successful at breastfeeding.

"We can work with pediatricians, obstetricians and the public health community to give these women targeted support immediately following birth," said Crume.

The study was funded by the Colorado School of Public Health and Kaiser Permanente of Colorado. It appears in the current issue of the International Journal of Obesity. The authors had no declared conflicts of interest.

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Last Updated:
February 15, 2012