Connie K. Ho for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Considered taboo in the past, breastfeeding is the new hip activity for mothers who recently gave birth. Breastfeeding has gained in popularity for a variety of reasons related to better health. Most recently, scientists discovered that, while having more babies can lead to a higher body mass index, the longer a woman breastfeeds causes a lower body mass index (BMI) later on.
The study included women who had breastfed for at least six months and showed that women in their 50s had a lower BMI than those women who had not participated in breastfeeding. The researchers believe that every six months of breastfeeding was related to a one percent drop in BMI. The BMI factors in a person´s weight and height.
“Our research suggests that just six months of breastfeeding by UK women could reduce their risk of obesity in later life,” commented study co-author Professor Dame Valerie Beral, Director of the Cancer Epidemiology Unit at the University of Oxford and study co-author, in an article by the Telegraph. “A one per cent reduction in BMI may seem small, but spread across the population of the UK that could mean about 10,000 fewer premature deaths per decade from obesity-related conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.”
The team of investigators from Oxford University calculated that there would be approximately 10,000 fewer obesity-related deaths if every woman in Britain breastfeed their child for six months.
“This study adds to a growing body of evidence that the benefits extend to the mother as well — even 30 years after she´s given birth. Pregnant women should be made aware of these benefits to help them make an informed choice about infant feeding,” lead author Dr. Kirsty Bobrow, a member of the University of Oxford and lead author of the paper, told the Telegraph.
Breastfeeding is also able to lower deaths that are related to conditions like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
“We already know that breastfeeding can reduce a woman´s risk of developing breast cancer,” noted Sara Hiom, Director of Information at Cancer Research UK, in the Telegraph article. “And this study highlights that breastfeeding may also be linked to weight. Weight in turn influences the likelihood of developing some cancers as well as other diseases. Too few people know about the significant cancer risks associated with being very overweight.”
There are benefits for babies who breastfeed as well, such as fewer allergies and ear infections as well as a lower likelihood of developing obesity.
“The obesity epidemic is one of the biggest challenges facing both high income and, increasingly, low and middle income countries,” Professor Dame Sally Macintyre, Director of the MRC/Chief Scientist Office Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, in the Telegraph article. “Rates of obesity are continuing to rise. Studies such as this one, which look at broad trends within a large population, can help us to develop effective strategies to prevent obesity and its related diseases.”
The Million Women Study, a national study of women´s health by Cancer Research UK and the National Health Service, was published in the International Journal of Obesity and included data from 740,000 women who had passed menopause.