Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Breastfeeding Boosts IQ In Infants With 'Helpful' Genetic Variant

Date:
November 6, 2007
Source:
Duke University
Summary:
The known association between breast feeding and slightly higher IQ in children has been shown to relate to a particular gene in the babies, according to a new report. Breastfeeding boosts IQ in infants who have a genetic variant that enhances their metabolism of breast milk.

In two studies of breast-fed infants involving more than 3,000 children in Britain and New Zealand, breastfeeding was found to raise intelligence an average of nearly 7 IQ points if the children had a particular version of a gene called FADS2.
Credit: iStockphoto/Andrzej Burak

The known association between breast feeding and slightly higher IQ in children has been shown to relate to a particular gene in the babies, according to a report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In two studies of breast-fed infants involving more than 3,000 children in Britain and New Zealand, breastfeeding was found to raise intelligence an average of nearly 7 IQ points if the children had a particular version of a gene called FADS2.

"It is this genetic variant in FADS2, a gene involved in the control of fatty acid pathways, that may help the children make better use of the breast milk and promote the brain development that is associated with a higher IQ score," said Julia Kim-Cohen, assistant professor of psychology at Yale and a member of the research team.

"Children who do not carry the 'helpful' genetic variant have normal average IQ scores," Kim-Cohen said. "Being breastfed for them is not associated with an IQ advantage."

"There has been some criticism of earlier studies about breastfeeding and IQ that they didn't control for socioeconomic status, or the mother's IQ or other factors, but our findings take an end-run around those arguments by showing the physiological mechanism that accounts for the difference," said Terrie Moffitt, a professor of psychological and brain sciences in Duke University's Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy.

The intelligence quotient (IQ) has long been at the heart of debates about nature versus nurture. Twin studies document both strong genetic influences and nongenetic environmental influences on IQ, particularly for young children.

Moffitt, who performed the research with her husband and co-author Avshalom Caspi at King's College in London, found that the baby's intellectual development is influenced by both genes and environment or, more specifically, by the interaction of its genes with its environment.

"The argument about intelligence has been about nature versus nurture for at least a century," Moffitt said. "We're finding that nature and nurture work together."

Ninety percent of the children in the two study groups had at least one copy of the "C" version of FADS2, which yielded higher IQ if they were breast-fed. The other 10 percent, with only the "G" versions of the gene, showed no IQ advantage or disadvantage from breastfeeding.

The gene was singled out for the researchers' attention because it produces an enzyme that helps convert dietary fatty acids into the polyunsaturated fatty acids DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and AA (arachidonic acid) that have been shown to accumulate in the human brain during the first months after birth.

Since the first findings about breastfeeding and IQ appeared a decade ago, many formula makers have added DHA and AA fatty acids to their products. The children in these studies however were born in 1972-73 in New Zealand and 1994-95 in England, before fatty acid supplementation in formula began.

Though the jury is still out on whether such supplementation has made a difference in humans, laboratory studies in which rodents and primates were fed supplemental fatty acids have shown increased brain DHA concentrations and enhanced abilities in tests of learning, memory and problem-solving.

"Our findings support the idea that the nutritional content of breast milk accounts for the differences seen in human IQ," Moffitt said. "But it's not a simple all-or-none connection: it depends to some extent on the genetic makeup of each infant."

Moffitt and Caspi joined the Duke faculty in August, but are finishing up their research in London before moving to Durham in December.

Moffitt noted that the researchers aren't particularly interested in IQ or breastfeeding, per se. Rather, this study fits into a body of work they have done on gene-environment interactions and the brain.

"We're more interested in proving to the psychiatric community that genes usually have a physiological effect," Moffitt said. "When looking at depression or intelligence, the key bit that's often left out here is the environmental effects."

Journal reference: PNAS Early Edition: doi/10.1073/pnas.0704292104

The research was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (US), the Medical Research Council (UK), and the Health Research Council (New Zealand).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Duke University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Duke University. "Breastfeeding Boosts IQ In Infants With 'Helpful' Genetic Variant." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 November 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071105171949.htm>.
Duke University. (2007, November 6). Breastfeeding Boosts IQ In Infants With 'Helpful' Genetic Variant. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071105171949.htm
Duke University. "Breastfeeding Boosts IQ In Infants With 'Helpful' Genetic Variant." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071105171949.htm (accessed October 23, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Orthodontist Mom Jennifer Salzer on the Best Time for Braces

Orthodontist Mom Jennifer Salzer on the Best Time for Braces

Working Mother (Oct. 22, 2014) Is your child ready? Video provided by Working Mother
Powered by NewsLook.com
U.S. Issues Ebola Travel Restrictions, Are Visa Bans Next?

U.S. Issues Ebola Travel Restrictions, Are Visa Bans Next?

Newsy (Oct. 22, 2014) Now that the U.S. is restricting travel from West Africa, some are dropping questions about a travel ban and instead asking about visa bans. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
US to Track Everyone Coming from Ebola Nations

US to Track Everyone Coming from Ebola Nations

AP (Oct. 22, 2014) Stepping up their vigilance against Ebola, federal authorities said Wednesday that everyone traveling into the US from Ebola-stricken nations will be monitored for symptoms for 21 days. (Oct. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctors Help Paralysed Man Walk Again, Patient in Disbelief

Doctors Help Paralysed Man Walk Again, Patient in Disbelief

AFP (Oct. 22, 2014) Polish doctors describe how they helped a paralysed man walk again, with the patient in disbelief at the return of sensation to his legs. Duration: 1:04 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins