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Insulin Sensitivity Affects Production of Breast Milk

Update Date: Jul 05, 2013 04:59 PM EDT

Several studies have found evidence that break milk has numerous health advantages for infants. These studies suggest that breast milk can lead to higher intelligence quotients (IQ) and a lower risk of allergies. Unfortunately for some new mothers who would like to breast feed, their mammary gland does not lactate for some reason. Now, a new study is reporting that the difficulty in producing breast milk could be tied to an increase in insulin sensitivity during lactation.

The researchers from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and University of California Davis utilized next generation sequencing technology to study how milk is made in the mammary gland. The researchers, with Laurie Nommsen-Rivers, Ph.D. looked at previous studies that they have done in regards to breast milk production. In an older study, Nommsen-Rivers found three factors that explained why women might have difficulty with lactation. They included sub-optimal glucose metabolism tied to being overweight, having a large birth-weight baby, and being of an older maternal age. Now, this new study found that insulin could affect breast milk production as well.

"This new study shows a dramatic switching on of the insulin receptor and its downstream signals during the breast's transition to a biofactory that manufactures massive amounts of proteins, fats and carbohydrates for nourishing the newborn baby," Dr. Nommsen-Rivers said according to the press release. "Considering that 20 percent of women between 20 and 44 are prediabetic - it's conceivable that up to 20 percent of new mothers in the United States are at risk for low milk supply due to insulin dysregulation."

This discovery would explain why certain women cannot produce breast milk. This finding could also help inform women of preventative measures that they can take to increase their likelihood of lactating.  

The study was published in PLOS ONE.

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