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Breastfeeding Helps Prevent Mothers from Developing Diabetes after Childbirth
A team of South Korean researchers found that lactation can lower the incidence and reduce the risk of maternal postpartum diabetes. The researchers identified that lactation increases the mass and function of pancreatic beta cells through serotonin production. The team suggested that sustained improvements in pancreatic beta cells, which can last for years even after the cessation of lactation, improve mothers’ metabolic health in addition to providing health benefits for infants. Pregnancy imposes a substantial metabolic burden on women through weight gain and increased insulin resistance. Various other factors, including a history of gestational diabetes, maternal age, and obesity, further affect women’s risk of progressing to diabetes after delivery, and the risk of postpartum diabetes increases more in women who have had gestational diabetes and/or repeated deliveries. Diabetes-related complications include damage to blood vessels, which can lead to cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke, and problems with the nerves, eyes, kidneys, and many more. Since diabetes can pose a serious threat to mothers’ metabolic health, the management of maternal metabolic risk factors is important, especially in the peripartum period. Previous epidemiological studies have reported that lactation reduces the risk of postpartum diabetes, but the mechanisms underlying this benefit have remained elusive. The study, published in Science Translational Medicine on April 29, explains the biology underpinning this observation on the beneficial effects of lactation. Professor Hail Kim from the Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering at KAIST led and jointly conducted the study in conjunction with researchers from the Seoul National University Bundang Hospital (SNUBH) and Chungnam National University (CNU) in Korea, and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) in the US. In their study, the team observed that the milk-secreting hormone ‘prolactin’ in lactating mothers not only promotes milk production, but also plays a major role in stimulating insulin-secreting pancreatic beta cells that regulate blood glucose in the body. The researchers also found that ‘serotonin’, known as a chemical that contributes to wellbeing and happiness, is produced in pancreatic beta cells during lactation. Serotonin in pancreatic beta cells act as an antioxidant and reduce oxidative stress, making mothers’ beta cells healthier. Serotonin also induces the proliferation of beta cells, thereby increasing the beta cell mass and helping maintain proper glucose levels. The research team conducted follow-up examinations on a total of 174 postpartum women, 85 lactated and 99 non-lactated, at two months postpartum and annually thereafter for at least three years. The results demonstrated that mothers who had undergone lactation improved pancreatic beta cell mass and function, and showed improved glucose homeostasis with approximately 20mg/dL lower glucose levels, thereby reducing the risk of postpartum diabetes in women. Surprisingly, this beneficial effect was maintained after the cessation of lactation, for more than three years after delivery. Professor Kim said, “We are happy to prove that lactation benefits female metabolic health by improving beta cell mass and function as well as glycemic control.” “Our future studies on the modulation of the molecular serotonergic pathway in accordance with the management of maternal metabolic risk factors may lead to new therapeutics to help prevent mothers from developing metabolic disorders,” he added. This work was supported by grants from the National Research Foundation (NRF) and the National Research Council of Science and Technology (NST) of Korea, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Larry L. Hillblom Foundation, and the Health Fellowship Foundation. Image credit: Professor Hail Kim, KAIST Image usage restrictions: News organizations may use or redistribute this image, with proper attribution, as part of news coverage of this paper only. Publication: Moon, J. H et al. (2020) ‘Lactation improves pancreatic β cell mass and function through serotonin production.’ Science Translational Medicine, 12, eaay0455. Available online at https://doi.org/10.1126/scitranslmed.aay0455 Profile: Hail Kim, MD, PhD firstname.lastname@example.org Associate Professor Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering (GSMSE) Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) Profile: Hak Chul Jang, MD, PhD email@example.com Professor Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism Seoul National University Bundang Hospital (SNUBH) President Korean Diabetes Association Profile: Joon Ho Moon, MD, PhD firstname.lastname@example.org Clinical Fellow Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism SNUBH Profile: Hyeongseok Kim, MD, PhD email@example.com Assistant Professor Chungnam National University (CNU) Profile: Professor Michael S. German, MD Michael.German@ucsf.edu Professor Diabetes Center University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) (END)
The 2017 International Food Festival
The savory smell of exotic dishes filled the main plaza of the KAIST campus on May 26. Exotic music reverberated throughout the campus. The KAIST community took a break together on a breezy early summer Friday afternoon sharing food with their friends and family. KAIST international student body, KISA (KAIST International Students Association), installed white food tents and prepared their country’s favorite dishes at their 13th annual International Food Festival. The festival was co-organized with Chungnam National University and the University of Science & Technology (UST). At the festival, students from 18 nations cooked about 60 dishes and sold them to the public. Foreign students’ performances of traditional dance and music on the stage livened the atmosphere. KISA President Sanzhar Kerimbek of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering said, “We are so glad to show the diversity of KAIST and its rich culture. This is a big opportunity to get together with neighboring universities, CNU and UST and say thank you for their participation and support." Valentin Porcellini, an exchange students from France in the School of Computing, said, “We are so excited to have people taste our crepes, ratatouille, and other dishes.” Associate Vice President of the International Office Jay Hyung Lee also said he was glad to see so many people joining this festival. While congratulating the students on the success of the festival, he said the festival will serve as an opportunity to better understand each other by sharing the food and culture. (Photo caption: Paricipants stop by the Indonesian booth to purchase the food at the International Food Festival on May 26.)
KAIST International Food Festival
The KAIST International Students Association (KISA) hosted the 2015 International Food Festival in front of Creative Learning Building, KAIST, on May 22, 2015. This was the 11th International Food Festival for KAIST where international students introduced food from their home countries to strengthen cultural exchanges with Korean students. This year’s festival was the biggest international festival in Daejeon in which around 500 students and staff from KAIST, Chungnam National University (CNU), the University of Science & Technology (UST), and the public participated. KAIST’s President Steve Kang opened the festival with a welcoming speech, followed by congratulatory speeches by CNU President Sang-Chul Jung and UST President Un-Woo Lee. The first section of the event was the food festival where around 40 kinds of food from ten countries including Kenya, Kazakhstan, India, and Turkey were presented. Students from each country offered cooking demonstrations in booths, and participants purchased the food. Cheryl Wanderi, a Kenyan student who recently received a Master’s degree from KAIST’s Department of Bio and Brain Engineering last February said, “I am delighted to introduce Mandazi, a Kenyan donut, to not only Korean students but also other international students.” The second half of the event consisted of cultural performances from different countries. There were eight teams performing including an Indonesian traditional Saman dance team, a Kazakh group that performed on traditional instruments, and an Azerbaijani K-POP dance team. Sung-Hyon Myaeng, the Associate Vice President of KAIST’s International Office, said, “Despite their busy lives, students from three different universities planned this event to get to know each other. I hope international students and Korean students can come together and enjoy the festival.” Edrick Kwek, the President of KISA, said, “This food festival is an event showing the cultural diversity of KAIST in the most splendid way.”
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