Will breastfed children be smarter when they grow up? In a recent study, Brazilian researchers showed that breastfeeding appears to have an impact on the baby's IQ, regardless of the parents' social status.
The benefits of breastfeeding for the child's brain
Breast milk protects children from illness, allergies, and presumably being overweight. It is indisputable that breastfeeding is healthy. But does full breastfeeding during infancy also affect brain development? Or more bluntly: are children who are breastfed smarter in the future?
A recent study from Brazil, now published in the medical journal The Lancet Global Health, seems to confirm this thesis.
Researchers led by Bernardo Lessa Horta of the Federal University of Pelotas collected data on nearly 6,000 children. They divided them into five different groups based on how long they were breastfed: less than a month, one to three months, three to six months, six to twelve months, and more than twelve months. It was also recorded whether they were fed tea or water.
Breastfeeding for three months = 0.7 IQ points
After 30 years, they put the remaining 3,493 participants in the study through an intelligence test. The result: the longer the babies were breastfed, the more points they later achieved as adults on the IQ scale.
For example, three months of full breastfeeding, averaged 0.7 points more; If they received breast milk for a whole year the increase was even up to four points.
On the other hand, the researchers also looked at the professional career and social status of the participants. In this case, the breastfed children performed better than their bottle-fed peers. Therefore, they had an average of almost one more year of education and also earned more income.
Effect of fatty acids
The results of the study showed that apparently the amount of milk also plays an important role. Breast milk contains a high proportion of long chain essential fatty acids, which are important for brain development. However, it cannot yet be definitively established whether these are ultimately responsible for the effect.
However, the Brazilian researchers identified a relationship between breastfeeding and intelligence in all social strata. They took into account ten social factors that influence IQ and evaluated their effects, including family income, parental education, smoking during pregnancy, mother's age at birth, type of delivery and genetic origin.
"Exclusion of these side effects suggests that breast milk actually has an intelligence-promoting effect," The study is well done and all the data was collected quickly and not consulted years later, which makes it reliable."
Previous studies had ignored family income and parenting levels and were criticized. The children who were breastfed were mainly of middle-class mothers, on average better educated and more intelligent than the mothers of street children. Therefore, the cognitive advantage of nursing children was attributed to social causes.
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