March 13, 2008 / 7:40 PM / 12 years ago

Breast-feeding seen to curb type 2 diabetes later

File photo shows a Tarahumara child breastfeeding in the hamlet of Rikinapuchi, northern Chihuahua state, Mexico, January 22, 2008. REUTERS/Tomas Bravo

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Breast-fed babies appear to be less likely to develop type 2 diabetes when they reach adolescence, according to findings published in the medical journal Diabetes Care.

“Dramatic increases in childhood obesity and the emergence of type 2 diabetes in youth motivate research to identify lifestyle approaches to primary prevention of both conditions,” write Dr. Elizabeth J. Mayer-Davis of the University of South Carolina, Columbia, and colleagues.

To investigate factors related to the occurrence of type 2 diabetes in individuals 10 to 21 years of age, the researchers used a subset of data from a larger study. The analysis included 80 subjects with type 2 diabetes who were matched to 167 “controls” without diabetes.

The breast-feeding rate was lower in subjects with type 2 diabetes compared with the control subjects, at 20 versus 27 percent in African Americans; 50 versus 84 percent for Hispanics; and 39 percent versus 78 percent for non-Hispanic whites, respectively.

Regardless of ethnic group, further analysis indicated that the protective effect of breast feeding against type 2 diabetes was in large part attributable to its effect in moderating current childhood weight.

Nonetheless, breast-feeding in itself had a protective effect, Mayer-Davis and colleagues found.

“Given other well-established reasons for breast-feeding,” the researchers conclude, “renewed efforts to encourage breast-feeding in populations at high risk for type 2 diabetes may be useful.”

SOURCE: Diabetes Care, March 2008.

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