Women who breastfeed may be less likely to develop high blood pressure and diabetes, a systematic review and meta-analysis of nine studies showed.
Researchers examined data from four studies, investigating the connection between lactation and diabetes, as well as data from another five studies on the connection between lactation and high blood pressure.
The first group of four studies included data from approximately 206,000 women. The second group of studies included data on approximately 255,000 women.
The results of the analysis showed that mothers who breastfed for over 12 months are 30% less likely to develop diabetes and 13% less likely to develop high blood pressure than mothers who nursed for less than 12 months. This held true even when factors such as obesity, smoking, and family history were controlled for.
Reuters, however, noted that none of the studies examined were controlled trials, and cardiovascular and metabolic researcher Erica Gunderson told the site that the researchers in the current study did not take age, race, parity, or pregnancy complications into account.
Dr. Haithan Ahmed, a senior author of the study and chair of cardiology at New York's AdvantageCare Physicians, said the connection may be due to the fact that breastfeeding burns calories and can help reverse metabolic issues which develop during pregnancy.
"In many ways it can be a reset to the adverse metabolic profile in pregnancy," Ahmed told Reuters by email. "Many women are not able to breastfeed, but for those who are, that may be an excellent way to improve long term cardiovascular and metabolic health of new mothers."