Infographic: How Breastfeeding Protects Mothers
Infographic: How Breastfeeding Protects Mothers

Infographic: How Breastfeeding Protects Mothers

Breastfeeding reduces type 2 diabetes risk by boosting beta cells.

Rachael Moeller Gorman
Rachael Moeller Gorman

Rachael freelances for both scientific and lay publications, and loves telling the stories behind the science.

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Jul 13, 2020

Lactation stimulates cells in the pituitary gland to produce the hormone prolactin (1), which, in mice, binds to beta cells in the pancreas (2). This leads to a signaling cascade that increases the cell’s production of serotonin (3). Serotonin binds to a separate receptor on the beta cells, stimulating them to proliferate and produce more insulin (4), and also serves as an antioxidant that protects cells from free radicals. Researchers propose that these mechanisms explain why women who breastfeed their children have reduced long-term risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

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