- New research suggests insulin does more than facilitate uptake of sugars
- American scientists think believe up to 20% of
new mothers could be at risk of low milk supply due to the body not using insulin as it should
- A clinical trial is planned with a
drug used to control type two diabetes to determine whether it improves milk supply
17:21 EST, 5 July 2013
17:21 EST, 5 July 2013
Mothers having trouble breastfeeding may be showing the early signs of diabetes, doctors have warned.
New research has revealed the hormone insulin plays an important part in the production of breast milk – and mothers who are struggling with feeding may have low levels of insulin.
For a long time, insulin was not thought to play a direct role in regulating the milk-making cells of the human breast.
But scientists now know that the mammary gland in breast becomes sensitive to insulin during lactation.
New research has revealed that insulin plays an important part in the production of milk. For a long time, insulin was not thought to play a direct role in regulating the milk-making cells of the human breast. But scientists now know that the mammary gland becomes sensitive to insulin during lactation
A clinical trial is now planned with a drug used to control type 2 diabetes to determine whether it improves milk supply – and the researchers suggest that women struggling to breastfeed should perhaps get their insulin levels checked.
Insulin levels are linked to diabetes. In people with type 1 diabetes, beta cells in the pancreas are destroyed, meaning that the body can no longer produce insulin.
People with type 2 diabetes make insulin, but their bodies don’t respond well to it. Some people with type 2 diabetes may take pills or insulin shots to help their bodies use glucose for energy.
Previous research from Dr
Laurie Nommsen-Rivers, the study author, have shown it takes longer for milk to come in to
women whose bodies struggle to metabolise enough insulin.
Dr Laurie Nommsen-Rivers explored the connection between milk production and insulin levels, (an insulin pen is pictured)
Those who tend to struggle often have factors involved such as being
overweight, being at an advanced maternal age, or having a large
Dr Nommsen-Rivers and her colleagues
were able to use a non-invasive method to capture mammary gland RNA – a
chain of molecules that are blueprints for making specified proteins –
in samples of human breast milk.
then created the first publicly accessible library of genes expressed
in the mammary gland based on RNA-sequencing technology.
They discovered an orchestrated
switching on and off of various genes as the mammary gland transitions
from secreting small amounts of immunity-boosting colostrum in the first
days after giving birth to the copious production of milk in mature
identified the significance of insulin signalling in the production of
breast-milk, the scientists at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical
Centre and the University of California Davis, are now planning a
clinical trial with a drug used to control type two diabetes to
determine whether it improves insulin action in the mammary gland, thus
improving milk supply.
Dr Nommsen-Rivers said: ‘Considering
that 20 per cent of women between 20 and 44 are pre-diabetic, it’s
conceivable that up to 20 per cent of new mothers in the United States
are at risk for low milk supply due to insulin dysregulation [i.e. low
levels],’ she said.
While a drug is not an ideal way to solve the problem according to Dr Nommsen-Rivers, it is a way to establish proof-of-concept.
‘The ideal approach is a preventive one,’ she said.
‘Modifications in diet and exercise are more powerful than any drug. After this clinical trial, we hope to study those interventions.’
A clinical trial is planned with a drug used to control type two diabetes to determine whether it improves milk supply