Adults who were breastfed longer as babies score higher on IQ tests, Brazilian researchers have found.
Experts say the results, while not conclusive, appear to back existing advice that babies should be exclusively breastfed for six months, BBC News reported.
Dr. Bernardo Lessa Horta of the Federal University of Pelotas said his study offers a unique insight, because in the population he studied, breastfeeding was evenly distributed across social class — not something practised only by the rich and educated.
Most of the nearly 3,500 babies the study traced were breastfed — some for less than a month and others for more than a year.
Those who were breastfed for longer scored higher on measures of intelligence as adults.
They were also more likely to earn a higher wage and to have completed more schooling.
Horta believes breast milk is better than the alternatives because it is a good source of long-chain saturated fatty acids, which are essential for brain development.
But experts say the study findings cannot confirm this and that much more research is needed to explore any possible link between breastfeeding and intelligence.
Dr. Colin Michie, chairman of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health’s nutrition committee, said: “There have been many studies on the link between breastfeeding and IQ over the years, with many having had their validity challenged.
“This study, however, looks at a number of other factors, including education achievement and income at age 30, which, along with the high sample size, makes this study a very powerful one.”
The findings were published in The Lancet Global Health.
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