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Breastfeeding is protective to diabetes risk in young adults: a longitudinal study



It is unclear whether any breastfeeding or a certain duration of breastfeeding is protective against the development of diabetes in adult offspring.


We followed a sub-sample of 3,595 offspring born in the Mater Hospital in Brisbane, Australia between 1981 and 1983 and for whom we had doctor diagnosed self-reported diabetes at age 21 years and maternal reported duration of breastfeeding at 6-month post-natal follow-up. Multiple logistic regression was used to examine the independent associations of duration of breastfeeding (never breastfeed, breastfed <4 months and breastfed ≥4 months) with offspring diabetes by age 21 years.


Of 3,595 young adults, 45 (1.25 %) developed diabetes by age 21 years. The odds ratio of experiencing diabetes was 0.58 (95 % CI 0.29, 1.16) for offspring who were breastfed <4 months, and it was 0.29 (95 % CI 0.13, 0.63), for offspring who were breastfed at least 4 months compared to the never breastfed offspring. Adjusting for potential confounding and mediating factors including maternal age, education, pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI), smoking, offspring sports, TV and their BMI at 21 years did not substantially alter this association.


Findings of this study suggest that infants who are breastfed for longer than 4 months have a substantial protective effect against the development of diabetes in young adulthood, which is independent of current BMI. Promoting breastfeeding for a minimum of 4 months may be a useful strategy for the prevention of diabetes among young adults.

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The authors thank all participants in the study, the MUSP data collection and management team, and the University of Queensland who helped to store and manage the data for the MUSP. The core study was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC ID 631507) of Australia. AAM is supported by a Career Development Awards from the NHMRC (ID 1026598). For the work in this paper AAM has a Grant from the National Heart Foundation of Australia (ID G07B3135). The views expressed in the paper are those of the authors and not necessarily those of any funding body and no funding body influenced the way in which the data were analysed and presented.

Conflict of interest

Abdullah Al Mamun, Michael J. O’Callaghan, Gail M. Williams, Jake M. Najman, Leonie Callaway and Harold D. McIntyre declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical standard

Ethical clearances were obtained from the University of Queensland Human Ethics committee.

Human and animal rights disclosure

All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2008 (5).

Informed consent disclosure

Informed consent was obtained from all participants for being included in the study.

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Correspondence to Abdullah Al Mamun.

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Managed by Massimo Porta.

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Mamun, A.A., O’Callaghan, M.J., Williams, G.M. et al. Breastfeeding is protective to diabetes risk in young adults: a longitudinal study. Acta Diabetol 52, 837–844 (2015).

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  • Breastfeeding
  • Duration
  • Diabetes
  • Young adults