Breastfeeding Linked to Higher Intelligence

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Our Saturday green news brings you the latest on health, parenting and cool baby and kid products:

breastfeeding baby, breastfeeding benefits

Photo courtesy of Hobo Mama via Flickr

  • Breastfeeding linked to higher intelligence: Along with numerous health benefits, breastfeeding has also been associated with an increase in child’s intelligence. Previous studies have shown an increase of up to 7.5 IQ points in elementary age children who were breastfed as infants, as well as an increase in verbal, performance and comprehensive IQ in adults. The latest long-term study of infants born in Pelotas, Brazil, in 1982 recently published in journal Lancet, interviewed 5,914 new mothers about their plans for breastfeeding and then followed the subjects all the way to age 30. The study results indicated, that he subjects who had been breastfed for 12 months or longer had a higher IQ (about 3.7 points), more years of education and earned roughly 20% more than the average income level. As the study author, Dr. Bernardo Lessa Horta, explains: “Information on breastfeeding duration was collected very close to the time when weaning happened, so we had a very precise information on the duration of breastfeeding. It’s suggesting that the positive effect of breastfeeding on IQ leads to a higher income. This is our main finding at this moment.” Mr. Horta also added that, a possible reason for the advantage of breast milk is its richness in long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA), which are essential for proper growth and development of the brain. These essential fatty acids are also found in salmon and shellfish and have been added to infant formulas since the 1990s. But their benefit to mental or psychomotor development in infant formula, as opposed to breast milk, is not clear.
  • How to manage food allergies: For the last years, researchers have been racing to understand why there’s been a twenty percent increase in children’s food allergies over the past decade. They came to a conclusion that since children at-risk of developing food allergies were instructed to completely avoid allergenic foods (such as eggs, nuts and fish) until preschool, which was a common practice a decade ago, this trend has most likely contributed to the increase in food allergies altogether. Now researchers suggest that these recent findings will probably lead to new feeding advice for babies who are prone to food allergies. Researchers are also experimenting with ways to treat food allergies by desensitizing the immune system to minute amounts of the allergen, a method similar to allergy shots given to treat seasonal allergies. If you’re dealing with food allergies yourself or raising children with them, here are five things you need to know when it comes to treatment and prevention: 1. babies with early signs of food allergies don’t necessarily need to avoid allergenic foods; 2. consult with an allergy specialist for diet advice if you suspect your child has food allergies; 3. food allergy tests can be unreliable: the American Academy of Pediatrics has advised to avoid overtesting for food allergies since such tests can often indicate an allergy where none actually exists; 4. consider asking for newer, more specific food allergy tests: a growing number of allergists are using more accurate allergy tests that look for immune reactions to several proteins specific to particular foods; 5. stay away from food allergy treatments or cures (immunotherapy) unless they are part of a clinical trial. Scientists Sicherer and Shreffler caution against undertaking immunotherapy outside of a clinical trial because of risks of severe allergic reactions. They’re both conducting new studies to see whether adding certain immune system modulating medications or Chinese herbal remedies to the therapy can help improve long-term success rates and reduce the risk of allergic reactions.
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