Breast feeding is best for a brainy baby – study

Evening Standard (UK) 6 Nov 2007
Breast-feeding really does make babies brainier, a major study suggests. British researchers have found that mother’s milk in the first few months of life can boost children’s IQ by seven points. This applies in nine cases out of ten, where the youngster inherits a common but newly-identified “brain boosting” gene. The finding adds to the mounting evidence that breast-fed babies are happier, healthier and brighter than those raised on formula milk. It also helps resolve a long-running dispute about the benefits of breast milk on intelligence – and the role of nature and nurture in IQ…The link between breast milk and intelligence was first discovered in 1929 and is often used as an incentive to encourage mothers to feed naturally. However, a major study by the Medical Research Council last year suggested that the link was a myth. It found that past research had failed to take into account the mother’s background. Not only were those who breastfeed usually brighter, they were more highly educated, older, better off and provided a more stimulating home environment, it found. Now two studies suggest that breast milk helps babies whatever their family background.In one, carried out on 1,037 children in New Zealand, IQ was tested at ages seven, nine, 11 and 13.  DNA samples were gathered from the participants when they reached 18. The other study looked at 2,232 British twins, whose IQ was measured at five. Both sets of research found that the IQs of breastfed children were seven points higher, even after their social background was taken into account – so long as they had inherited a particular gene from their parents. The gene, FADS2, is involved in the way the body processes fatty acids in the diet.The findings appear in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Professor Terrie Moffitt, based at the Institute of Psychiatry in London.