Friday, November 9, 2007

Breastfeeding and IQ Boosting

Recent research performed at Avshalom Caspi at King's College in London found that babies that carry a specific gene get extra benefit (specifically IQ) when they are breastfeed- than those who lack the gene. The benefits from breastfeeding any baby are still enormous; being protected against childhood cancer, obesity, allergies and infections- are not be belittled here.

The authors looked at a gene called FADS2. They decided to follow this gene because it produces an enzyme that helps convert fatty acids into the polyunsaturated fatty acids DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and AA (arachidonic acid). DHA accumulates in large amounts in the brain during the first two years of life and has been shown to help with brain development, although doctors are not yet sure why and how.

FADS2 has three variants, two of which have an allele called the "C allele". If your baby has the C allele breastfeeding will give them an average boost of 6.8 IQ points. If the this allele isn't present there is no noticeable benefit in IQ. Although it appears the odds your baby has this gene are in your favor- they say 90% of the population has the C allele.

Terrie Moffitt, a professor of psychological and brain sciences in Duke University's Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy, and researcher in the study comments on the breakthrough, "The argument about intelligence has been about nature versus nurture for at least a century. We're finding that nature and nurture work together". That's what I like to hear- it's not nature versus nurture- it is a very very complex combination of them both.

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