A long-term research has revealed a link between breastfeeding and intelligence gain. The study, conducted in Brazil on nearly 3,500 babies, from all walks of life, pointed to the fact that those who had been breastfed for a longer period of time went on to score higher on IQ tests when they reached adulthood.
Scientists say the results, despite not being conclusive, are backing current advice that babies should be breastfed for six months. The experts added that mothers should still have a choice to do it or not.
The findings were published in The Lancet Global Health. The results stress there are various factors other than breastfeeding that could have an influence on intelligence. The researchers tried to eliminate from the study data regarding the mother’s education, birth weight or family income.
According to Dr Bernardo Lessa Horta, from the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil, this study gives a unique insight mainly because in the population which was studied, breastfeeding was evenly distributed in all social classes, and was not practiced only by the rich and educated.
Most of the babies were breastfed. Some of them for less than a month, while others for more than a year. The research pointed out that those who were breastfed for longer achieved higher scores at intelligence tests as adults. Other benefits include a higher likeliness to earn a higher wage and to have finished more schooling.
The Brazilian medic believes breast milk may offer an advantage due to its content of saturated fatty acids – an essential component for brain development.
Other experts point to the fact that the study findings cannot confirm this claim and that much more research is required to find out if there really is a link between breastfeeding and intelligence.
“We recognize however, that not all mothers choose, or are able, to breastfeed and infant formula is the only alternative to breast milk for babies under 12 months old,” said Kevin Fenton, national director of health and well-being, Public Health England.
This study is not the first of its kind. Other research also linked breastfeeding and IQ, but many were challenged by the scientific community.
“It is important to note that breastfeeding is one of many factors that can contribute to a child’s outcomes”, explained Dr Colin Michie, chairman of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health’s nutrition committee
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