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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Breastfeeding greatly increases IQ

New research confirms that breastfeeding (by contrast to formula feeding) increases the IQ of children even in the challenged case of a particular minority polymorphism, which, according to this new paper, is actually the diplotype that shows greater and not lowest influence of breastfeeding on IQ.

Colin D. Steer et al, FADS2 Polymorphisms Modify the Effect of Breastfeeding on Child IQ. PLoS ONE 2010. Open access.


Breastfeeding is important for child cognitive development. A study by Caspi et al has suggested that rs174575 within the FADS2 gene moderates this effect so that children homozygous in the minor allele (GG genotype) have similar IQs irrespective of feeding method.

Methods and Principal Findings

In our study of 5934 children aged 8 years, no genetic main effect with IQ was found for rs174575. However, an interaction with this polymorphism was observed such that breastfed GG children performed better than their formula fed counterparts by an additional 5.8 points [1.4, 10.1] (interaction p = 0.0091). Interaction results were attenuated by about 10% after adjustment for 7 factors. This study also investigated rs1535, another FADS2 polymorphism in linkage disequilibrium with rs174575, together with performance and verbal IQ, finding similar results although effect sizes were generally reduced.

Conclusions and Significance

This study did not replicate the findings of Caspi et al. In contrast to their study, GG children exhibited the greatest difference between feeding methods such that breastfed children performed similarly irrespective of child genotype whereas formula fed GG children performed worse than other children on formula milk. Further studies are required to replicate these findings.

Figure 1. Unadjusted means for Full-scale IQ at 8 years for breastfeeding (yes/no) and child FADS2 genotypes with 95% CIs (N = 5045 (A) and 5099 (B)).

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