Major Study Shows Fish Oil Fat in Infants Increases Adult Intelligence
May 22, 2002
Infants who are breast-fed for up to 9 months may out-smart their peers as adults.
The findings support a growing body of research linking breast-feeding with intellectual development in early and middle childhood, but are the first to show an association between breast-feeding and adult intelligence.
It is not clear why breast-fed infants may log higher IQs as adults, but the researchers speculate that breast milk contains beneficial nutrients not found in formula or cow's milk. Breast milk contains docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (AA)-- long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids that appear to support brain development, according to previous studies. These nutrients were recently added to some infant formulas sold in the United States.
The physical and psychological bond between a mother and child that develops during breast-feeding might also play a role by stimulating brain development, or unidentified environmental factors maybe at work. For instance, the researchers suggest, the amount of time a woman spends breast-feeding her child may serve as a marker of the time and energy she invests in the child's entire upbringing.
Test scores rose in tandem with the duration of breast-feeding for up to nine months, regardless of the parents' social status and education, the mother's weight gain during pregnancy, the individual's birth weight,and other factors that may affect cognitive development.
Longer duration of breast-feeding was more common among older moms and those with more education and higher social status, and among infants with higher birth weights and lengths, the study found. Single women and those who smoked were the least likely to breast-feed for long periods.
These results indicate that breast-feeding may have long-term positive effects on cognitive and intellectual development. The nutrients in breast-milk,behavioral factors, and factors associated with choice of feeding method may all contribute to the positive association.
JAMA May 8, 2002;287:2365-2371