Study reveals link between breastfeeding and high IQ

The study, published on the Lancet Global Health journal, was carried out on almost 6,000 children, starting in 1982. At 30 years of age, the IQ, education and current income of the participants was recorded.

Children who were breastfed for over a year proved to have higher IQ scores by up to four points than those who were breastfed for a month or less. They had also spent more time in education and had higher incomes.

Dr Bernardo Lessa Horta, one of the co-ordinators for the study, said, ‘It’s suggesting that the positive effect of breastfeeding on IQ leads to higher income. This is our main finding at the moment.’

He said that although the link between breastfeeding and higher intelligence has already been established, the number of participants and variety in their social statuses strengthens the findings. Breastfeeding usually occurs in wealthier backgrounds, which can influence the future prospects of a child.

‘What is unique about this study is the fact that, in the population we studied, breastfeeding was not more common among highly educated, high-income women, but was evenly distributed by social class,’ said Dr Horta.

The reason for this effect on a child’s later development would be the long-chain saturated fats present in breast milk, which are essential for brain expansion.

Dr Colin Michie, chair of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child health’s Nutrition Committee, said, ‘It is important to note that breastfeeding is one of many factors that can contribute to a child’s outcomes, however this study emphasises the need for continued and enhanced breastfeeding promotion so expectant mothers are aware of the benefits of breastfeeding.

‘Furthermore, once mothers have given birth, we must ensure they are properly supported to continue breastfeeding for as long as they are able to.’

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