Peter Russell

December 04, 2015

New evidence has emerged on the role that breastfeeding could have in preventing diabetes.

Early results from a Canadian study suggest that breastfeeding reduces the risk of mothers and their offspring developing the condition.

Growing Rates of Diabetes

A person with type 2 diabetes has high blood sugar due to inability of their pancreas to produce enough insulin. The condition usually follows a period of insulin resistance, meaning the body does not react properly to insulin.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes, with around 3 million people in the UK diagnosed with the condition. Rates of diabetes are increasing worldwide.

The study by a team from the University of Manitoba explored the link between breastfeeding and type 2 diabetes rates in the Canadian province.

In total they studied 334,553 deliveries during a 24-year period in Manitoba. Of these, 60,088 births were to mothers from indigenous communities where rates of diabetes in pregnancy (gestational diabetes) are 2 to 3 times higher than among non-indigenous mothers. Gestational diabetes is known to be associated with a higher risk of later development of type 2 diabetes among both mothers and their offspring.

Breastfeeding was recorded in 56% of indigenous mothers and 83% of non-indigenous mothers.

Reduced Diabetes Risk

The researchers found that breastfeeding was associated with:

· A 14% reduced risk of type 2 diabetes among indigenous mothers

· A 23% reduced risk among non-indigenous mothers

· An 18% lower risk among all children regardless of ethnicity.

They say that these results were independent of other factors, including gestational diabetes, gestational high blood pressure, family income, location of residence, age of mothers at birth and the birth weight of offspring.

Details of the study have been presented at the World Diabetes Congress in Vancouver. The results should be treated with caution as they have yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.


'Breastfeeding initiation reduces incidence of diabetes in mothers and offspring: A population-based study in Manitoba', Shen et al, World Diabetes Congress.
Diabetes UK

Reviewed on December 04, 2015