What's metabolic syndrome? According the American Heart Association, it's a combination of factors including abdominal obesity, high cholesterol, elevated blood pressure, insulin resistance, high inflammatory state. These factors significantly increase the risk of heart attack and Type II diabetes.
Recent research has shown a protective effect against metabolic syndrome for all women, but the effect appears to be even stronger for women who have had gestional diabetes. And that's important, because women who have gestational diabetes are 2½ times more likely to develop metabolic syndrome after pregnancy.
USA Today reports:
In women who didn't have gestational diabetes, breast-feeding cut metabolic syndrome risk 39%-56%. In those who did, it cut the risk 44%-86%. In both, the authors write in Diabetes: The Journal of the American Diabetes Association, the longer women breast-fed, the lower their risk.
Breast-feeding is associated with a quicker loss of pregnancy weight, but that's only "a little bit of the explanation," Gunderson says. Another possibility, she says: Breast-feeding might minimize the accumulation of belly fat, fat linked to type 2 diabetes risk.