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Originally published April 24 2010

Longer duration of breastfeeding reduces risk of metabolic syndrome for the mom

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) Women who breastfeed their children longer are significantly less likely to develop the cluster of heart disease and diabetes risk factors known as metabolic syndrome, according to a study conducted by researchers from Kaiser Permanente Northern California and published in the journal Diabetes.

"The findings indicate that breastfeeding a child may have lasting favorable effects on a woman's risk factors for later developing diabetes or heart disease," researcher Erica Gunderson said.

In the study known as CARDIA, researchers monitored 704 women who were between the ages of 18 and 30 during their first pregnancy. All women were free of metabolic syndrome at the beginning of the study. Twenty years later, those who breastfed longer during the first nine months after giving birth were significantly less likely to have developed metabolic syndrome.

Symptoms of metabolic syndrome include central obesity, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, high fasting blood glucose, and low HDL ("good") cholesterol. Patients are diagnosed with the condition if they have three or more of the symptoms.

Women with gestational diabetes were significantly more likely to develop metabolic syndrome than women without the condition, at a rate of 22.1 per 1,000 person-years rather than 10.8 per 1,000 person-years.

"An additional new finding from this study is that breastfeeding also conferred long-term health benefits for women with a history of gestational diabetes mellitus," Gunderson said.

Among women who did not suffer from gestational diabetes, breastfeeding for more than a month reduced the risk of metabolic syndrome between 39 and 56 percent. Among women with gestational diabetes, breastfeeding lowered the risk by 44 to 86 percent. This effect was not influenced by other risk factors such as physical activity, weight gain, body mass index, preconception cholesterol, triglyceride or fasting glucose levels, socioeconomic status, or other lifestyle factors.

The study was the first to look at all the symptoms of metabolic syndrome before pregnancy, after pregnancy and after weaning.

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