by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted November 6, 2007 in DNA in General
Big headlines this morning:
- Breastfeeding leads to higher IQ in babies with the right gene
- Common gene determines if breast is best
- Breast-feeding link to higher IQ
- Mental Abilities: Gene Found to Play Role in Benefits of Breast Milk
- Gene ‘links breastfeeding to IQ’
- Breastfeeding is good – if it’s in the genes
- Breastfeeding’s IQ boost may depend on genes
- The gene that turns breast-milk into brain food
It appears that children with one variant of the FADS2 gene see an average improvement of seven points on IQ tests if they’re breastfed as compared to formula-fed children. Children who do not have that variant do not see a corresponding increase in their IQ from breastfeeding.
The FADS2 gene encodes for an enzyme that is involved in fatty acid metabolism. So, people with the variant of FADS2 linked to higher IQ may be more efficient at utilizing fatty acids for brain development. The good news: 90% of the population carries the variant of FADS2 linked to higher IQ so chances are, your child will benefit from breastfeeding.
Hold on a minute.
Regardless of its effects on IQ, BREASTFEEDING IS STILL GOOD FOR YOUR BABY! Ounce for ounce, breast milk contains better fats, protein, carbohydrates, immune boosters, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and hormones than formula. (Comparison of Human Milk and Formula, AskDrSears.com)
This is not to say that all breast milk is created equal or that all children are able to glean equal amounts of nutrition and benefit from breast milk. In 2005, researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine found that two genes, ApoA4 and ApoE, help to determine the amount of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and total fat in the breast milk mothers produce.
DHA is an omega-3 fat that is critical in the development of the brain and eye. DHA deficiency is believed to play a role in autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and learning disabilities. Mothers who carry the 347S variant of ApoA4 produce 40% more DHA in their breast milk than women with the more common (347T) version
Mothers carrying the E4 variant of the ApoE gene were found to have 40 to 75% less total fat in their breast milk and would thus provide less calories per ounce. This finding, however, didn’t concern me much. It is well understood that babies are capable of self-regulating the amount of calories they ingest. For mothers whose breast milk has a lower caloric content, their babies would most likely compensate by drinking more. And it is usually obvious if a baby is not getting enough calories because they look and act unwell.
Dr. Richard B. Weinbert:
â€¦in the future, similar genetic testing may help identify women who need to modify their diet or take supplements to maximize the nutritional value of their breast milk.
Shouldn’t or can’t we all modify our diet and take supplements regardless of our genotype? Breastfeeding is one of the most controversial subjects among parents today. A motherâ€™s health and nutritional status are often called into question if her baby does not thrive. While I believe that each family has the right to choose between breast milk and formula, Iâ€™m afraid that once a motherâ€™s genetic make-up is known, it will be one more reason to blame her for inadequate breast milk. Similarly, if a child’s FADS2 status were known, would some mothers choose to use formula instead of breastfeed even though there are a myriad of positive benefits to breast milk besides just a boost in intelligence?
I am proud to say that my son has never had a drop of formula. He was breastfed for several years (yes, that’s right – years). While I’m confident it benefited him physiologically, I also know that it benefited us emotionally.
If you need breastfeeding support or general breastfeeding information, visit Angela White at Breastfeeding 1-2-3.
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