Researchers at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and the University of California, San Diego, conducted a cohort study of 50 mothers and their babies to analyze the effect of breast milk composition and feeding frequency on cognitive development.
The study, published in PLOS ONE, showed that the amount of 2’FL in breast milk in the first month of feeding was related to significantly higher cognitive development scores in infants at two years of age.
However, 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.
Many studies have reported a positive effect of breastfeeding on cognitive developmentBut this study aimed to specifically identify what was causing this effect.
The study’s collaborator and co-author, Lars Bode, PhD, professor of pediatrics and director of the Center for Excellence in Mother-Milk-Infant Research at the University of California, San Diego, said: “Through our high performance 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 specific childhood outcomes such as cognitive development, validate existing data from preclinical models or generate completely new hypotheses.”
Using a statistical technique called mediation analysis, the researchers were able to independently assess the effects of breastfeeding in general, and the effects of the 2’FL oligosaccharide.
Paige Berger, PhD, RD, associate postdoctoral researcher at CHLA and the first author of the study, said: “This improved cognitive development in the first two years of life raises the question of the possible long-term impact on a child in school and beyond.”
These observations allowed the team to conclude that the increase in neurological development provided by breastfeeding was mainly due to mothers who produced more 2’FL.
Cognitive development was measured at 24 months using the Bayley-III scale, a standardized test for the development of infants and young children.
Michael Goran, PhD, Director of the Diabetes and Obesity Program at the Saban Research Institute of Los Angeles Children’s Hospital and lead author of the study, said: “We know that there are many different compounds in breast milk and the composition is dynamic: it changes over time and is very variable among mothers.”
“In addition to identifying the impact of oligosaccharide 2’FL, we also wanted to determine when it is most critical for a child’s development.”
Being able to identify critical factors for early neurological development offers the possibility of supplementing women’s breast milk in individuals that produce lower amounts of this important substance.
“For some women, breastfeeding is a challenge. For those who cannot breastfeed or who can only do so in the short term, 2’FL could be offered as a supplement to the nutrition your baby is receiving to improve cognitive development support, “Dr. Berger said.
Source: PLOS ONE
The oligosaccharide of human milk 2′-fucosillactose links monthly feeding with cognitive development at 24 months in babies of normal and overweight mothers
Goran M. I., et al.