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A component of breast milk improves cognitive development in babies at two years of age and beyond

The benefits of breast milk are undeniable and researchers continue to discover new properties that help the health of the mother and the baby.

For example, different studies with animals have shown that breast milk affects the development of the baby and, specifically, that a carbohydrate, the oligosaccharide 2’FL, positively influences neurological development.

Now, the first study conducted in babies by researchers at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles in collaboration with the University of California, San Diego (USA), has shown that the 2’FL found in breast milk improves their cognitive development . The results have been published in Plos One.

Proven benefits after two years

Many studies have found a positive effect of breastfeeding on cognitive development. But researchers at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles wanted to identify specifically what caused it. Lars Bode, Professor of Pediatrics and Director of the Center of Excellence in Infant Mother-Milk Research at the University of California, San Diego notes that:

“Through our high-throughput analytical platform we can quantify oligosaccharides such as 2’FL and many others in hundreds of breast milk samples in a short period of time. This technology allows us to associate differences in milk composition with results. specific to the infant, such as cognitive development, validating existing data from preclinical models or generating entirely new hypotheses. “

But they wanted to go further. In addition to identifying the impact of the 2’FL oligosaccharide, they also wanted to determine when its lack is most critical to the child’s development. This is explained by Dr. Michael Goran, Director of the Diabetes and Obesity Program at the Los Angeles Children’s Hospital Research Institute and author of the study.

“There are many different elements in breast milk, and the composition is dynamic, it changes over time, and it is highly variable between mothers.”

The study involved 50 mothers and their babies , and the researchers analyzed the composition of breast milk and the frequency of feeding at one month and six months of age.

Cognitive development was measured at 24 months using the Bayley-III scale, a standardized test of infant and toddler development.

The study showed that the amount of 2’FL in breast milk in the first month of feeding was associated with significantly higher cognitive development scores in infants at two years of age. The amount of 2’FL in breast milk at six months of feeding was not related to cognitive outcomes, indicating that early exposure may be more beneficial.

Using a statistical technique called mediation analysis, the researchers were able to independently assess the effects of breastfeeding in general, and the effects of oligosaccharide 2’FL.

Paige Berger, lead author of the study, points out the importance of her findings, which found that the increased neurodevelopment provided by breastfeeding was primarily due to mothers producing more 2’FL for the baby to consume .

“This improvement in cognitive development in the first two years of life raises the possibility that breastfeeding has a long-term impact on the child, at school and even later.”

Being able to identify what factors influence the baby’s early neurological development offers the possibility of supplementing the breast milk of women who produce lower amounts of this important substance. This is what Dr. Berger says, pointing out the possibilities of its discovery:

“For some women breastfeeding is a challenge. For those who cannot or can only breastfeed for a short time, 2’FL could be offered to their baby as a nutritional supplement to better support their cognitive development.”

Via | Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

Photos | iStock

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