Breastfed Babies Less Likely To Develop Diabetes

Breastfed babies are less likely to develop diabetes later in life compared to babies who are formula fed according to recent evidence.

In one study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and led by Christopher G. Owen of St George’s University in London, data was analyzed from seven studies that had previously examined the impact of breast feeding on diabetes risk. The researchers found that in the seven studies, breastfeeding lowered diabetes risk by between 15 percent and 56 percent with an average reduction in risk of 39 percent.

The researchers concluded that “early breastfeeding was consistently associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes in later life compared to those initially formula fed”.

A further study, published in the journal Diabetes Care in March 2008, analyzed the effect breast feeding had on diabetes development in young people aged between 10 and 21.

The study found that in white youths, just 39.1% of the individuals diagnosed with diabetes were breastfed compared to a 77.6% breastfeeding rate in those without diabetes. In Hispanic youths, 50% of those with diabetes were breastfed compared to 83.8% in those without diabetes. Among black youths, 19.5% of those with diabetes were breastfed compared to 27.1% in non-diabetics.

It is not known precisely why formula fed children are more likely to develop diabetes later in life. One possible explanation is that mothers of a lower socio-economic class are more likely to breastfeed their babies. Children born to parents of a lower socioeconomic class are likely to make poorer diet choices through life leading to a greater risk of obesity and therefore diabetes risk.

Another explanation is that formula fed babies tend to have higher concentrations of blood glucose and serum insulin than those who are breastfed, it is possible that this could put additional stress on the pancreas in early life leading to an increased risk of diabetes.

The findings come on the back of other studies that suggest breastfed babies are less likely to develop lymphoma, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, and are less likely to die of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).

Current WHO guidelines recommend exclusive breast feeding until six months of age however recent data from the CDC indicates that just 41.7% of mothers in the USA are still breastfeeding when their child is six months of age.