National Breastfeeding Month: Rheumatoid arthritis, type 2 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, folic acid, and autism

August is National Breastfeeding Month, so we present some of our stories regarding breastfeeding and its association with rheumatoid arthritis, type 2 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and folic acid.

Breastfeeding is a newborn’s primary source of nutrients and nourishment. Growing evidence suggests babies that are breast-fed demonstrate healthier development. While not all women can choose the breastfeeding option – for a variety of reasons – understanding the role of breast milk in a child’s development is still important.

Rheumatoid arthritis risk in women may be reduced through breastfeeding: StudyRheumatoid arthritis risk in women may be reduced through breastfeeding: Study


Rheumatoid arthritis risk in women may be reduced through breastfeeding, according to research. The study, which included over 7,000 older Chinese women, found that breastfeeding was associated with a reduced risk of rheumatoid arthritis. The risk was cut by half, compared to women who never breastfed.

It has been long known that breastfeeding offers numerous benefits to both mother and child, but previous research has come up with mixed conclusions on breastfeeding and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). This time, researchers completed a cross-sectional study to assess the relationship between rheumatoid arthritis, breastfeeding, and the use of oral contraceptives.

The researchers used data from 7,349 older Chinese women over the age of 50. The women answered questionnaires pertaining to their sociodemographic history, disease and lifestyle history, obstetric history, breastfeeding history, and history of oral contraceptive use. The women were also asked whether they had been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and were inspected by trained nurses for any swelling or tenderness.

The majority of women had at least one live birth and 95 percent of those women breastfed for at least a month. Only 11 percent of women used oral contraceptives, and the mean age for rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis was 47.5.

The researchers found in women who had at least one live birth, breastfeeding reduced their risk of rheumatoid arthritis by half. Rheumatoid arthritis risk was further reduced by the duration of breastfeeding. No correlation was found between the use of oral contraceptives and the risk of rheumatoid arthritis. Continue reading…

Breastfeeding lowers mother’s risk of type 2 diabetes: StudyBreastfeeding lowers mother’s risk of type 2 diabetes: Study

Breastfeeding has many known benefits for the baby and the mother, and new research suggests that it could lower the mother’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Gestational diabetes is when the mother develops high blood sugar during her pregnancy. Between five and nine percent of pregnancies result in gestational diabetes, and women who are overweight, over the age of 35, or with a history of diabetes are at a higher risk.

The researchers, from Kaiser Permanente in California found that mothers who experience gestational diabetes are up to seven times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. The new findings suggest that breastfeeding may prevent gestational diabetes from progressing into type 2 diabetes.

Researchers aimed to uncover how breastfeeding affects a woman’s risk of developing diabetes. The study looked at 1,035 women who were diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Glucose tolerance tests were performed weeks after labor, and again at one and two years after delivery. The women’s infant-feeding practices were also gathered monthly for up to one year post-delivery.

Within two years post-delivery, nearly 12 percent of the women developed type 2 diabetes. The women who exclusively breastfed decreased their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 35 to 57 percent, compared to those who used formula after delivery. Continue reading…

Exclusive breastfeeding decreases the risk of multiple sclerosis relapseExclusive breastfeeding decreases the risk of multiple sclerosis relapse

We all know the advantages of breastfeeding, as far as the baby is concerned. We also know that breastfeeding helps deepen the bond between the mother and the newborn child. But a recent study shows, when it comes to mothers, there is more to breastfeeding than just emotional value. The study showed that the risk of a relapse of multiple sclerosis (MS) in the first six months postpartum is lower in those women who exclusively breastfed their babies.

The details of the study can be found online in JAMA Neurology.

Women with MS outnumber men by a ratio of four to one in the U.S. In 1940, that ratio was halved, signifying the rapid growth of MS in women.

Historically, statistics show that almost 20 to 30 percent of women with multiple sclerosis experience a relapse within the first three to four months after giving birth. So far, there have been no management or therapeutic measures to prevent these relapses. There has been a lot of debate over the effect of exclusive breastfeeding on the risk of postpartum MS relapse, and the current study was undertaken to gain a better understanding of the issue.

For the study, a team from Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany took a close look at data from 201 pregnant women with MS. The data (2008 to 2012) was collected from the German MS and Pregnancy Registry with one-year follow-up postpartum information. Continue reading…

Multiple sclerosis risk higher in children if mothers had vitamin D deficiency during pregnancyMultiple sclerosis risk higher in children if mothers had vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy

Vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy increases the risk of multiple sclerosis (MS) in children, suggests a new study published in JAMA Neurology. While research proves that increased levels of vitamin D decrease the risk of MS in adulthood, some studies have been linking the vitamin D exposure in utero with the MS risk later in life.

Kassandra L. Munger, Sc.D., from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, and coauthors were looking to determine if there is a link between adequate levels of vitamin D and multiple sclerosis in offspring.

The study involved 30 male and 163 female MS patients whose mothers were part of the Finnish Maternity Cohort, and matched 176 case patients with 326 control participants for comparison. The authors found that 70 percent of the blood samples of maternal participants in their first trimester revealed an insufficient amount of vitamin D.

The study found a 90 percent increased risk of MS in patients whose mothers had vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy, compared to patients whose mothers had normal levels of the vitamin.

Worth mentioning is that two prior studies did not find any correlation between MS and insufficient levels of vitamin D in pregnancy. Also, the current findings do not suggest that maternal levels of vitamin D are a direct measure how much of the vitamin the fetus is actually exposed to.

Further research is required to determine whether increased exposure to the vitamin in pregnant mothers is a sufficient measure for lowering the risk, and whether there will be a dose-response effect. However, the studies do suggest a correlation between low levels of vitamin D during pregnancy and increased risk of MS in the child. Continue reading…

Excess folic acid during pregnancy may raise child’s risk of autism spectrum disorder, diabetes, and obesityExcess folic acid during pregnancy may raise child’s risk of autism spectrum disorder, diabetes, and obesity


Excess folic acid during pregnancy may raise child’s risk of autism spectrum disorder, diabetes, and obesity. Pregnant women are generally advised to boost their folic acid intake as it contributes to healthy brain development and protects the baby against birth defects. The new study observed that excessive intake of folate and vitamin B12 may increase the risk of the baby developing autism spectrum disorder.

Co-researcher Daniele Fallin said, “The new research question before us is to understand the optimal dose. Some [folate] is a good thing. It does appear the levels in the body could get too high, and that would be a bad thing. Supplementation is indeed an important thing. We would not want anyone to interpret from this that they should stop taking vitamin supplements if they are intending to get pregnant or if they are pregnant.”

The study showed that mothers with high levels of folate at the time of delivery had double the risk of autistic child, compared to mothers with normal levels. Furthermore, mothers with excessive B12 were also three times more likely to have a child with autism. The risk was highest in mothers with excess folate and vitamin B12 – 17 times greater, compared to mothers with normal levels of both nutrients. Continue reading…


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