Mothers who breastfeed their babies reduce their risk of becoming obese when they get older, research has shown.
A study of 740,000 post-menopausal
women found that the more children a woman had, the heavier she was
likely to be in later life. But average Body Mass Index (BMI) was lower
in women who had breastfed - irrespective of how many times they had
Every six-month period of breastfeeding
reduced a woman's long-term BMI - a standard measurement relating
weight to height - by one per cent, according to the findings published
in the International Journal of Obesity.
This was after taking account of
factors known to influence obesity risk, including smoking, exercise
levels, and social deprivation.
Professor Dame Valerie Beral, director
of the Cancer Epidemiology Unit at Oxford University and a member of
the study team, said: 'Our research suggests that just six months of
breastfeeding by UK women could reduce their risk of obesity in later
'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.'
Lead author Dr Kirsty Bobrow, also from
Oxford University, said: 'We already know breastfeeding is best for
babies, and 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
'Pregnant women should be made aware of these benefits to help them make an informed choice about infant feeding.'
The research formed part of the Million
Women Study, a major investigation into reproductive and lifestyle
factors affecting women's health.
Participants had an average age of 57.5 and an average BMI of 26.2, which is classified as 'overweight'.
A BMI of 30 marks the point at which an overweight person becomes obese.
Most of the women taking part in the
study had given birth to at least one child and of these, 70 per cent
had breastfed for an average 7.7 months.
Previous research had shown that
breastfeeding can help women lose the weight they put on during
pregnancy in the months immediately after birth, however the long-term
impact of breastfeeding was unclear.
The study was funded by the charity Cancer Research UK and the Medical Research Council.
Sara Hiom, from Cancer Research UK,
said: 'We already know that breastfeeding can reduce a woman's risk of
developing breast cancer, 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,' she said.
Professor Dame Sally Macintyre,
director of the Institute of Health and Wellbeing based at Glasgow
University, said: 'The obesity epidemic is one of the biggest
challenges facing both high-income and, increasingly, low and
'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.'
Culled from Daily Mail