UK study shows breast-feeding increases babies' IQ

LEXINGTON, KY (Sept. 22, 1999) - Breast-fed babies' IQ is three to five points higher than that of formula-fed babies, according to researchers at the University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center. The findings are published in the October issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

James W. Anderson, M.D., professor of medicine and clinical nutrition in the UK College of Medicine, found that breast-feeding, compared to formula feeding, is associated with significantly higher levels of cognitive development. The difference increases the longer a baby is breast-fed, and low birth weight babies receive the greatest benefits.

"This study confirms that nutrients in breast milk and maternal bonding have beneficial effects on IQ," Anderson said. "Infants deprived of breast milk are likely to have lower IQ, lower educational achievement, and poorer social adjustment than breast-fed infants."

Anderson theorizes that breast milk provides nutrients required for rapid development of the immature brain. Breast milk may support neurological development by provision of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (AA).

The study was a meta-analysis, which is the critical review and summary of results from many clinical studies and selected characteristics on the same subject.

This is the first study to quantitatively analyze research that has been done on the topic. This type of analysis is important to separate the effects of maternal bonding from the nutrients delivered with breast milk.

Breast-feeding provides two benefits compared to formula feeding - better nutrition and maternal bonding. The nutritional benefits of breast-feeding are associated with at least a 3.2-point difference in cognitive development compared to formula feeding after adjustment for key factors. This increase is in addition to the 2.1 IQ points that appe

Contact: Vikki Franklin
University of Kentucky Medical Center

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