The findings revealed that breastfeeding can alter the maternal metabolism to protect against diabetes.
The metabolites in women who breastfed for more than three months differed significantly from those who had shorter lactation periods. "Longer periods of lactation are linked to a change in the production of phospholipids and to lower concentrations of branched-chain amino acids in the mothers' blood plasma," lead-author Daniela Much from Helmholtz Zentrum Munchen -- a German recearch institute. The metabolites involved were linked in earlier studies with insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, the researchers said. "The findings of our study provide new insights into disease-related metabolic pathways that are influenced by lactation and could thus be the underlying reason for the protective effect," added Sandra Hummel from Helmholtz Zentrum Munchen.
Previous studies have showed that breastfeeding for more than three months postpartum has a protective effect, which lasts for up to 15 years after gestational diabetes.
For their analyses, the scientists examined almost 200 patients who had developed gestational diabetes. The participants in the study received a standardised glucose solution and gave a fasting blood sample beforehand, and during the test. The scientists then compared the samples on the basis of 156 different known metabolites. "On average, women with gestational diabetes breastfeed less often and for shorter duration than non-diabetic mothers," Hummel said adding, "the aim is now to develop strategies that will improve the breastfeeding behaviours of mothers with gestational diabetes."