Lifetime duration of lactation and chronic inflammation among middle-aged women with a history of gestational diabetes

Sylvia H. Ley, Jorge E. Chavarro, Stefanie N. Hinkle, Mengying Li, Michael Y. Tsai, Frank B. Hu, Cuilin Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction Longer duration of lactation is associated with lower cardiometabolic disease risk, but pathogenic pathways involved in the disease progression are unclear, especially among high-risk women. We aimed to examine the associations of lifetime lactation duration with cardiometabolic biomarkers among middle-aged women with a history of gestational diabetes (GDM). Research design and methods Women with a history of GDM participating in the Nurses' Health Study II, a prospective cohort study, were identified and followed through biennial questionnaires beginning in 1991. Lactation history was asked in three follow-up questionnaires to calculate lifetime duration. In 2012-2014, fasting blood samples were collected through the Diabetes & Women's Health Study to measure inflammatory (C-reactive protein (CRP), interleukin (IL) 6), liver enzyme (alanine aminotransferase, aspartate aminotransferase, and gamma-glutamyl transferase), and lipid biomarkers (total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol). Results At follow-up blood collection, women were at median age 58.2 (95% CI 51 to 65) years and 26.3 (95% CI 15.7 to 34.1) years since GDM index pregnancy. After multiple adjustment including prepregnancy body mass index (BMI), longer duration of lactation was significantly associated with lower CRP (least squares (LS) mean 1.90 mg/L (95% CI 1.47 to 2.45) for 0-month lactation, 1.98 mg/L (95% CI 1.68 to 2.32) for up to 12-month lactation, 1.67 mg/L (95% CI 1.42 to 1.97) for 12-24 month lactation, and 1.39 mg/L (95% CI 1.19 to 1.62) for >24-month lactation; p trend=0.003) and IL-6 (1.25 pg/L (95% CI 0.94 to 1.68), 1.19 pg/L (95% CI 0.99 to 1.42), 1.04 pg/L (95% CI 0.87 to 1.25), and 0.93 pg/L (95% CI 0.78 to 1.11); p trend=0.04). Longer duration of lactation was associated with lower risk for chronic inflammation using CRP 3 mg/L cut-off in middle-aged women (OR 0.81 (95% CI 0.69 to 0.940 per 1-year increase) with multiple adjustment. Conclusions Longer lifetime duration of lactation was associated with favorable inflammatory biomarker concentrations in middle-aged women with a history of GDM. Chronic inflammatory pathways may be responsible for previously reported associations between lactation and long-term risk for cardiometabolic diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere001229
JournalBMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 28 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding This study was supported by the Intramural Research Program of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health (contract No. HHSN275201000020C). The Nurses’ Health Study II was funded by research grants DK58845, CA50385, P30 DK46200, U01 CA176726, R01 CA67262, and U01 HL145386-01 from the National Institutes of Health. SHL was supported by grant P20GM109036 from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 BMJ Publishing Group. All rights reserved.


  • diabetes
  • gestational
  • inflammation
  • lactate
  • pregnancy


Dive into the research topics of 'Lifetime duration of lactation and chronic inflammation among middle-aged women with a history of gestational diabetes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this