Monday, March 14, 2011

Could breastfeeding make baby brighter? Just four weeks on mother's milk said to benefit brain

An old chestnut re-roasted. Full research report here.

This is a brave attempt at rigorous research but it falls to the ground over the political incorrectness of IQ. They did not measure maternal IQ so the small effect they observed could be entirely due to that. Given the propaganda in favour of it, it is highly likely that more intelligent women are more likely to breastfeed -- and IQ is highly hereditary

Note that this recent study, which DID control for IQ found no effect of breastfeeding. Sad, eh? No wonder the study below has not made it into the peer reviewed journals

Babies who are breastfed grow up to be more intelligent, scientists suggested yesterday. Just four weeks on their mothers’ milk can have a ‘significant’ effect on a child’s development in primary and secondary school, research has found. Those who have been breastfed do better at reading, writing and maths at the ages of five, seven, 11 and 14.

While breast milk has long been known to boost babies’ immunity, helping them fight ear infections, stomach bugs and even asthma, little was known about its effects on intelligence until now.

Maria Iacovou, one of the authors of the study, said: ‘The issue was that while it looked as though breastfeeding did have an impact on cognitive development, no one knew if that was just because the type of mother more likely to breastfeed in the first place was more likely to nurture brighter children, or whether there was a true causal link. ‘Breast milk has well-known health benefits and now we can say there are clear benefits for children’s brains as well.’

Dr Iacovou, a social scientist at the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex, insisted that she didn’t intend ‘to make any mother feel guilty’. She said there were significant challenges to face when trying to change attitudes to breastfeeding and women shouldn’t be pressured to do so. But, she added, ‘we should start focusing more on those women who do want to, try to help them and make it more normal for everyone’.

As well as providing babies with vital nutrients, breastfeeding has been shown to protect the mother from breast and ovarian cancer in later life – due to its effects on hormonal balance. It could even help new mothers return to their pre-pregnancy figures, burning 500 calories a day.

However Janet Fyle, professional policy adviser at the Royal College of Midwives, said that mothers often can’t breastfeed because of pressures to return to work. She added: ‘In this country we are cutting benefits to single parent families and poorer people, and mothers have to get back to work and earn a living, whether it’s in Sainsbury’s or the City – it is what the Government wants them to do.’

The study was conducted by researchers from Oxford University and the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex. It looked at test scores of pupils who were still being breastfed when they were four weeks old and others put on formula milk.

Each breastfed child was compared with a bottle-fed child from a very similar background, based on factors such as parents’ income, jobs and whether they were separated.

Despite very similar upbringings, those who had been breastfed consistently did better in maths, reading and writing throughout primary and secondary school, the study of more than 10,000 children found.


Now the British government wants calorie counts on sandwiches and beer

Fast food and sandwich chains are to display calorie counts on menus, ministers will announce this week. Beer mats and glasses in pubs will also start displaying measurements of drinks’ alcohol units under the deal reached by the Government with several food and drinks firms.

And larger fast food chains will introduce healthier meals thanks to a voluntary deal between the industry and the Food Standards Agency watchdog. This initiatives to improve the nation’s eating and drinking habits, part of the Government’s ‘responsibility deal’, is due to be announced by ministers this week.

A number of major food chains have revealed their efforts to help the nation become healthier. KFC is to start selling healthier griddled chicken alongside the usual fried options and Pizza Hut is promoting a low-calorie menu that encourages diners to eat salad. Burger King and McDonald’s are expected to lead the way among outlets introducing menus with calorie information from September.

Meanwhile Heineken has announced that all 11 million glasses used in pubs and clubs bearing logos of Foster’s, Bulmers, Kronenbourg or its other brands will carry information on the number of units per pint.

And it is expected that a leading brand, thought to be Strongbow cider, will have its alcohol content cut by a fifth to encourage responsible drinking.

The calorie count scheme mirrors a compulsory regime adopted in New York last year that has led to an average reduction of 50 to 100 calories for each order placed. [Rubbish! It made no difference]

Other moves include a pledge by companies to reduce salt by 15 per cent, to help reach the Government’s target of keeping an adult’s daily intake at six grams or less.

FSA chief executive Tim Smith said supermarket shoppers can already choose what to buy thanks to product labels showing the levels of calories, fat, sugar and salt. ‘There is no good reason why people should not be able to come to the same conclusion when they are standing in front of a sandwich counter or in a fast food outlet,’ he added.

But the timing of the move has encountered opposition from the British Hospitality Association, amid claims it will add to costs and threaten jobs in a period of hardship for many businesses.


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