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PERSONAL TRAITS

Breastfeeding and intelligence coefficient

According to the protocols of the Spanish Association of Pediatrics (AEP) and following the latest directives of the Breastfeeding Committee of the AEP, it has been verified that “during the postnatal stage of brain development in the infant that has not been breastfed, it has been observed that there is a lower level of sialic acid (SA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in the gray matter and in the cerebella white matter, a lesser maturation level at one year of age and a delay in acquiring adult values of the central and peripheral nerve system. A inferior pyscho-motor and neuro-visual development and brain stem maturation in premature infants has been observed.”

Recently, Kramer et al. (2011) published the results of a randomized controlled study based on a follow-up for six and a half years of 13.889 infants born in 31 maternity hospitals in Belarus in which they demonstrated that the children whose mothers participated in the promotion of breastfeeding trial obtained 7.5 points higher in a verbal intelligence test than those in the control group. In a non-verbal test, the difference was of 2.9 points and of 5.9 in cognitive development.

Different studies also corroborate said results:

Breastfeeding is associated with better language reception at 3 years of age and verbal and non-verbal intelligence at 7 according to a study published by JAMA Pediatrics of the JAMA Network publications.

Evidence supports the relationship between the benefits of breastfeeding and infant health, but the degree to which breastfeeding leads to a better cognitive development is less certain according to the background study.

Mandy B. Belfort, MD, MPH of the Boston Children´s Hospital and his team examined associations of breastfeeding duration and exclusivity with child cognition at 3 and 7 years of age. The researchers used assessment tests to measure cognition.

The authors concluded that “in summary, our results support a causal relationship of breastfeeding in infancy with receptive language at age 3 and verbal and non-verbal IQ at school age. These findings support national and international recommendations to promote exclusive breastfeeding through 6 months of age and continuation of breastfeeding through at least one year.”

In an editorial, Dimitri A. Christakis, M.D., M.P.H., of the Seattle Children’s Hospital Research Institute writes: “The authors reported an IQ benefit at age 7 years from breastfeeding of 0.35 points per month on the verbal scale and 0.29 points per month on the nonverbal one. In other words, breastfeeding an infant for the first year of life would be expected to increase his or her IQ by about 4 points.”

Christakis continues that merely reiterating the importance of breastfeeding is clearly not enough. “”The problem currently is not so much that most women do not initiate breastfeeding, it is that they do not sustain it.””

A study titled “Moderation of breastfeeding effects on the IQ by genetic variation in fatty acid metabolism” defends that children´s intellectual development is influenced by both genetic inheritance and environmental experiences.

Breastfeeding is one of the earliest such postnatal experiences. Breastfed children attain higher IQ scores than children not fed breast milk, presumably because of the fatty acids uniquely available in breast milk. Here we show that the association between breastfeeding and IQ is moderated by a genetic variant in FADS2, a gene involved in the genetic control of fatty acid pathways. We confirmed this gene–environment interaction in two birth cohorts, and we ruled out alternative explanations of the finding involving gene–exposure correlation, intrauterine growth, social class, and maternal cognitive ability, as well as maternal genotype effects on breastfeeding and breast milk. The finding shows that environmental exposures can be used to uncover novel candidate genes in complex phenotypes. It also shows that genes may work via the environment to shape the IQ, helping to close the nature versus nurture debate.

GENE OR REGION STUDIED


  • FADS2

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