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Breast-Feeding Said Linked to IQ

September 22, 1999

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) _ At least 60 percent of the average intelligence gain seen in breast-fed infants comes from breast milk’s nutritional value, rather than benefits from maternal bonding, according to a study released Wednesday.

The survey by University of Kentucky nutritionist James Anderson looked at 20 different studies comparing the brain development of infants who had been breast-fed with that of infants who had been given formula.

``Our study confirms that breast-feeding is accompanied by about a five-points higher IQ than in bottle-fed infants,″ Anderson said.

Within that increase, Anderson said, he and his associates were able to separate the benefits from mother-infant bonding from the purely nutritional benefits of human milk.

``Our best estimates are that maternal bonding and the decision to breast-feed account for about 40 percent of that increase, but that 60 percent _ 3.2 points _ are related to the actual nutritional value of the breast milk,″ he said.

Anderson’s study is being published in the October edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

An accompanying editorial by Ricardo Uauy and Patricia Peirano cautions that none of the studies examined by Anderson were randomized, meaning they may not sufficiently account for the fact that breast-feeding mothers tend to be wealthier, better-educated and more concerned about infant development.

According to Anderson’s study, intelligence is benefited by breast-feeding for up to six months. Children who are breast-fed for less than eight weeks show no IQ benefit, Anderson said.

The study was partially funded by Martek Biosciences Corp., a Winchester-based company that manufactures plant versions of two fatty acids found in breast milk, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (AA).

Anderson, who subscribes to the theory that DHA and AA promote lasting brain development, said he sought funding from Martek.

Martek has a strong interest in seeing DHA and AA approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use as a supplement in U.S.-made infant formula. Formulas sold in 60 countries contain DHA and AA but they are not approved for use here.

Anderson said his pregnant daughter is taking a daily supplement of DHA at his urging. If she were unable to breast-feed, he said, ``I personally would recommend she give DHA to her infant.″

A scientist who has studied DHA and an infant formula maker cautioned that studies have not shown a clear link between DHA consumption and increased IQ.

``I think people deserve to understand that while breast-feeding has been linked to cognitive functions, DHA has mainly been linked to effects which are not cognitive, like (increased) attention and other behavioral effects,″ said Susan Carlson, a professor in the school of nursing at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Susan Finn, nutrition director at Ross Products, the Columbus, Ohio-based maker of Similac infant formula, said the company’s studies have not shown a benefit to adding DHA and AA to infant formula.

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