New Delhi, September 4
Children’s cognition enhanced when fed with infant formula, externally mixed with compounds known to be present exclusively in milk produced by lactating women, researchers have found.
The study added to the growing scientific support for the importance of ingredients found in breast milk in early human development, the researchers from the University of Kansas, US, said.
These compounds, milk fat globule membrane (MFGM) and lactoferrin were added to infants formula and fed to children for 12 months.
The children’s IQ raised by 5 points at 5 and a half years of age, the researchers said in their study published in the Journal of Pediatrics.
The effects were most evident in tests of children’s speed of processing information and visual-spatial skills, they said.
Significant differences were also seen in children’s performance on tests of executive function, which are complex skills involving rule learning and inhibition, they said.
“This is consistent with the idea that early exposure to these nutritional components contribute to the long-term structure and function of the brain,” said John Colombo, the study’s corresponding author.
Breast milk is widely acknowledged as the most beneficial nutrition for infants, but many families face medical or logistical challenges in breastfeeding.
“All forms of mammalian milk contain large fat globules that are surrounded by a membrane composed of a variety of nutrients important to human nutrition and brain development. When milk-based infant formula is manufactured, the membrane has typically been removed during processing,” said Colombo.
“No one thought much about this membrane,” Colombo said, “until chemical analyses showed that it’s remarkably complex and full of components that potentially contribute to health and brain development.”
“The global nutrition research community has been looking at MFGM for about a decade,” Colombo said.
“Because the membrane is made up of several different components, it isn’t known whether one of the components is responsible for these benefits, or whether the entire package of nutrients act together to improve brain and behavioral development,” said Colombo.