Azara Blog: An alleged genetic influence in improving breastfed children's IQ

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Date published: 2007/11/06

The BBC says:

A single gene influences whether breastfeeding improves a child's intelligence, say London researchers.

Children with one version of the FADS2 gene scored seven points higher in IQ tests if they were breastfed.

But the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study found breastfeeding had no effect on the IQ of children with a different version.

The gene in question helps break down fatty acids from the diet, which have been linked with brain development.

Seven points difference is enough to put the child in the top third of the class, the researchers said.

Some 90% of people carry the version of the gene which was associated with better IQ scores in breastfed children.

Researchers at the Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London, used data from two previous studies of breast-fed infants in Britain and New Zealand, which involved more than 3,000 children.

IQ was measured at various points between the ages of five and 13 years in the studies.

Previous studies on intelligence and breastfeeding have come up with conflicting results.

There has been some debate as to whether mothers who had more education or who were from more affluent backgrounds were more likely to breastfeed, skewing the results.

Professor Terrie Moffitt, a co-author on the paper, said the findings gave a fresh perspective on the arguments by showing a physiological mechanism that could account for the difference between breastfed and bottle-fed babies.
Since the studies used in the analysis were done, manufacturers have begun to add fatty acids to formula milk but there have been inconsistent results on the benefits.

It's unlikely to be as simple as the authors claim. And IQ is a bit of a bogus concept. And the conclusions are based on not that much data. But this study at least seems to make it plausible that these observations are more than just yet another example of everything in life being correlated with wealth (and hence with everything else). No doubt the manufacturers will eventually catch up. Of course the breastfeeding zealots are keen to force all women to breastfeed, and this is just the latest salvo in that war. ("Breastfeed your child or he/she will be stupid/anti-social/etc. and you will be guilty of child abuse.")

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