VANCOUVER (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS) – Breastfeeding was associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes in an analysis of 250,392 children born to 180,107 women in the Canadian province of Manitoba.

Data were culled from hospital records, which captured the initiation of breastfeeding in the hospital, but not the subsequent duration. First-nation women have higher rates of diabetes than do others in Manitoba, so the investigators assessed the benefits of their breastfeeding separately. Initiating breastfeeding in the hospital was associated with a 23% reduced risk of diabetes among non–first nation mothers (HR 0.768, 95% CI: 0.719-0.820, P less than .0001) and a 14% reduced risk of diabetes among first nation mothers (HR 0.859, 95% CI 0.799-0.9230, P less than .0001), investigators at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg reported at the World Diabetes Congress.

Initiating breastfeeding in the hospital also protected children against type 2 diabetes during up to 24 years of follow-up (HR 0.821, CI 0.686-0.983, P = .0317). Just a small percentage of children – 0.2% among the breastfed, and 0.4% among those not breastfed – developed type 2 diabetes during follow-up.

After the researchers controlled for a range of potential confounders, the findings were independent of gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension, family income, and location of residence, age of mother at birth, parity, and birth weight of offspring.

“We believe this is the first study to provide evidence that breastfeeding initiation has a significant impact on diabetes in both mothers and children. We recommend enhanced education on breastfeeding initiation and duration,” said Dr. Gary Shen, professor of endocrinology and metabolism at the university.

The women were in their mid-20s, on average. About 56% of first-nation and 83% of non–first-nation women started breast feeding in the hospital. Gestational diabetes, children born small for gestational age, low income, and rural living were more common among women who did not breastfeed.

The prevalence of diabetes and obesity is up to three times higher in first nation people than in the general population of Manitoba, according to Dr. Shen.

He and his colleagues have launched an education website for moms-to-be called “ Moms in Motion .” They had no conflicts of interest to disclose.