Breastfeeding study helps reduce
risk of Type 2 diabetes and obesity
BY LIZ KATYNSKI
Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, November / December 2012
A research study designed to promote
breastfeeding at Sagkeeng First Nation is
leading to healthier babies at less risk for
Type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Dr. Patricia Martens started working
alongside members of the community in
1992. At the time, it had been established
that breastfeeding could reduce respiratory
and gastrointestinal infections in infants. The
challenge was to encourage reluctant moms to
breastfeed their babies.
Martens, along with research assistant
Linda Romphf, worked with the community
in 1995 to develop resources to promote
breastfeeding, including an educational
booklet and video. The community health
unit also created a pilot peer counselling
support program in 1997 that encouraged
breastfeeding. In two years, breastfeeding
rates jumped from 38 per cent to 70 per cent.
The duration rate also increased, with 40
per cent of moms still breastfeeding at six
months, compared to a national average of
25 per cent for women across the country.
That success prompted the community
to permanently fund the peer counsellor
program in 1998. Around that time, other
research also revealed reductions in Type 2
diabetes and obesity among people breastfed
as infants. Martens, along with other U of M
scientists, later showed the same result in
Manitoba: First Nations teens that had been
breastfed as babies were less likely to have
early-onset Type 2 diabetes, and the longer the
duration of breastfeeding, the lower the risk.
"The Sagkeeng materials are now being
used in other First Nation communities to
boost breastfeeding rates," says Martens, who
is now the Director of the Manitoba Centre
for Health Policy and a professor in the
Department of Community Health Sciences
at the U of M's Faculty of Medicine. "That's
pretty cool," she says.
Another of Martens' research studies
in Manitoba hospitals also revealed that
breastfed babies lost 5.5 per cent of their
body weight in the first few days of life
(which is normal), while formula-fed babies
lost only 2.5 per cent, implying the bottle-fed
babies were being overfed. It is important
not to overfeed babies because that might
predispose them to obesity and Type 2
diabetes later in life. Partly as a result of
Martens' work, Manitoba hospital protocols
have evolved to encourage only appropriate
volumes of formula be fed to newborns, and
only minimal supplementation be provided
to breastfed babies when required.
Back to "Research for better health"
Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.
Read the November / December 2012 issue of Wave