London: To-be-moms please note: Breastfeeding not only promotes healthy growth of children, but could also help reduce their risk of developing diabetes and becoming obese later in life, a new study has claimed.
   
Researchers at the Faculty of Life Sciences at Copenhagen University in Denmark found that breastfed babies follow a different growth pattern to those who drink formula milk and have significant future health benefits.
   
They found that mothers' milk lowers levels of the growth hormone IGF-1 and insulin in the blood, which slows the rate of growth even after the child, has started on solid foods.
   
Slower weight gain is known to encourage healthier eating patterns. By contrast, formula milk increases the production of fat cells that encourages weight gain throughout childhood, the researchers said.

The results, which come from analysis of a wider study of diet and wellbeing following 330 children at nine, 18 and 36 months, also suggests the longer the period of breastfeeding, the lower a child's weight at the age of 18 months, reported a daily.

Anja Lykke Madsen, one of the study researchers, said: "We can see that breastfeeding has a significant, measurable effect on the important growth regulators in the blood, IGF-I and insulin. The more times the child was breastfed, the lower the hormone levels.
   
"This suggests that the child has a slightly lower risk of becoming overweight later in childhood."

Research has shown that breast milk protects babies against stomach bugs, chest infections, asthma, eczema, and allergies, and appears to bring general health advantages in later life.

It can also reduce the risk of pre-menopausal breast and ovarian cancer and osteoporosis in the mother. It can even help new mothers to regain their shape, by burning an extra 500 calories a day.

Because of the health benefits, it's been recommended that babies should be breastfed exclusive for the first six months.

Previous research found babies on formula milk who were weaned on to solids too early -- before six months -- were the fastest-growing infants.
   
Prof Kim Fleischer Michaelsen, of Copenhagen University, said: "It is well known that children who are breastfed grow slightly more slowly than children who are given formula, and it looks as if this growth pattern is optimal because it cuts the risk of developing lifestyle diseases later in life.

"However, the new results show that breastfeeding also affects levels of IGF-I and insulin at nine months, at a time when the children are well into eating solids. The longer the children were breastfed, the lower their weight at 18 months."

(Agencies)