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Prolonged breast-feeding protects mothers from later-life obesity and related cardio-metabolic disorders

  • Petri Wiklund (a1), Leiting Xu (a1), Arja Lyytikäinen (a1) (a2), Juha Saltevo (a2), Qin Wang (a1) (a3), Eszter Völgyi (a1), Eveliina Munukka (a1), Shumei Cheng (a1), Markku Alen (a4), Sirkka Keinänen-Kiukaanniemi (a5) and Sulin Cheng (a1) (a6)...



To investigate the long-term effects of duration of postpartum lactation on maternal body composition and risk for cardio-metabolic disorders in later life.


Retrospective study. Body composition was measured using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry and serum glucose, insulin and lipids were analysed using enzymatic photometric methods 16–20 years after the last pregnancy. Medical history and lifestyle factors were collected via a self-administered questionnaire. Detailed information regarding weight change patterns during each pregnancy was obtained from personal maternity tracking records.


City of Jyväskylä and surroundings in Central Finland.


Two hundred and twelve women (mean age 48, range 36–60 years).


At 16–20 years after their last pregnancy, women who had breast-fed for less than 6 months had higher total body fat mass and fat mass percentage, particularly in the android region (46·5 (sd 8·2) %) than mothers who had breast-fed for longer than 6 months (39·0 (sd 10·2) %) or for longer than 10 months (38·4 (sd 10·9) %, P < 0·01). These differences were independent of pre-pregnancy weight and BMI, menopausal status, smoking status, level of education, participation in past and present leisure-time physical activity, and current dietary energy intake. Higher body fat mass was also associated with higher fasting serum glucose concentration and insulin resistance, TAG, LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol concentrations, as well as higher systolic and diastolic blood pressure (P < 0·05 for all).


Short duration of breast-feeding may induce weight retention and fat mass accumulation, resulting in increased risk of cardio-metabolic disorders in later life.


Corresponding author

*Corresponding author: Email


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Public Health Nutrition
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