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mother and father with babyImproved Learning Capability with Breast-feeding
By Neil Nedley, M.D.

Regardless of how strong a case I make for proper eating habits in relation to men­tal health, depression treatment, and depres­sion prevention, I am confronted with a so­bering reality. Our earliest dietary choices are not really ours to make. Those who were fortunate enough to have mothers who chose to breast-feed them were bequeathed a precious frontal lobe legacy. Research shows that children who are breast-fed have a mental edge persists at least for a number of years and probably for a lifetime.

          A recent analysis of 20 different studies on the subject: confirmed the connection between breast-feeding and subsequent mental advantage. Of note, the mental benefits accruing from breast-feeding appear to be even more important for premature and or low birth weight infants when com­pared to full term, normal weight babies.

           Failure to breast-feed may also predis­pose a child to social and emotional prob­lems later in life. In a classic European study, girls who were exclusively bottle-fed were assessed at 16 years of age. They demonstrated not only significant decreases in learn­ing capacity and school achievements but also in social adaptability. Although such re­search does not confirm a link between fail­ure to breast-feed and future depression, it certainly raises the question.

          All of the reasons for the superiority of breast milk regarding brain function are not clear. However, one factor appears to be the fat content of breast milk. Dr.Yokota of Ja­pan showed that newborn rats need ad­equate amounts of omega-3 fats in their diet. Without those fats, learning is impaired? Other international research teams such as Bourre and his French colleagues have made similar discoveries in animal studies. All have demonstrated the vital need for the omega-3 fats in the developing mammalian brain.

        It is well recognized in research circles that a traditional infant formula provides sub­standard amounts of omega-3 fats when com­pared to breast milk. Supplementing the child's diet with foods other than formula cannot reasonably make up the omega-3 deficit. One group of researchers came to this stunning conclusion: "It is concluded that it is virtually impossible to supplement the diet of formula-fed infants to match the long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in­take of breast-fed infants with currently available whole foods.


From: Depression, the Way Out, Nedley Publishing, Ardmore, OK, 2001 Neil Nedley, M.D.