Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

Association between breastfeeding and better preserved cognitive ability in an elderly cohort of Finnish men

  • V. Rantalainen (a1) (a2), J. Lahti (a1) (a2), M. Henriksson (a3) (a4), E. Kajantie (a5) (a6) (a7), M. Mikkonen (a8) (a9), J. G. Eriksson (a2) (a10) (a11) and K. Raikkonen (a1)...

Abstract

Background

Being breastfed in infancy has been shown to benefit neurodevelopment. However, whether the benefits persist to old age remains unclear.

Methods

We examined the associations between breastfeeding and its duration on cognitive ability in young adulthood and old age, and on aging-related cognitive change over five decades. In total, 931 men from the Helsinki Birth Cohort Study born in 1934–1944 in Finland took the Finnish Defence Forces Basic Intellectual Ability Test (total and verbal, arithmetic and visuospatial subtest scores) twice, at ages 20.2 and 67.9 years, and had data on breastfeeding (yes v. no) and its duration (‘never breastfed’, ‘up to 3’, ‘3 to 6’ and ‘6 or more months’). Linear and mixed model regressions tested the associations.

Results

At 20.2 years, breastfed men had higher cognitive ability total and visuospatial subtest scores [mean differences (MDs) ranged between 3.0–3.9, p values < 0.013], and its longer duration predicted higher cognitive ability total and arithmetic and visuospatial subtest scores (MDs ranged between 3.0 and 4.8, p values < 0.039). At 67.9 years, breastfed men had higher total cognitive ability and all subtest scores (MDs ranged between 2.6 and 3.4, p values < 0.044) and its longer duration predicted all cognitive ability scores (MDs ranged between 3.1 and 4.7, p values < 0.050). Verbal subtest scores decreased over five decades in men who were never breastfed or were breastfed for 3 months or less, and increased in those breastfed for longer than 3 months.

Conclusions

Neurodevelopmental advantages of breastfeeding and its longer duration persist into old age, and longer duration of breastfeeding may benefit aging-related change, particularly in verbal reasoning ability.

Copyright

Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: V. Rantalainen, Department of Psychology and Logopedics, University of Helsinki, P.O Box 9 (Siltavuorenpenger 1 A), University of Helsinki, Helsinki 00014, Finland. (Email: ville.rantalainen@helsinki.fi)

References

Hide All
Barker, DJ, Osmond, C, Forsén, TJ, Kajantie, E, Eriksson, JG (2005). Trajectories of growth among children who have coronary events as adults. New England Journal of Medicine 353, 18021809.
Britton, JR, Britton, HL, Gronwaldt, V (2006). Breastfeeding, sensitivity, and attachment. Pediatrics 118, e1436e1443.
Caspi, A, Williams, B, Kim-Cohen, J, Craig, IW, Milne, BJ, Poulton, R, Schalkwyk, LC, Taylor, A, Werts, H, Moffitt, TE (2007). Moderation of breastfeeding effects on the IQ by genetic variation in fatty acid metabolism. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 104, 1886018865.
Charbonneau, MR, O'Donnell, D, Blanton, LV, Totten, SM, Davis, JCC, Barratt, MJ, Cheng, J, Guruge, J, Talcott, M, Bain, JR, Muehlbauer, MJ, Ilkayeva, O, Wu, C, Struckmeyer, T, Barlie, D, Mangani, C, Jorgensen, J, Fan, Y, Maieta, K, Dewey, KG, Ashom, P, Newgard, CB, Lebrilla, C, Mills, DA, Gordon, JI (2016). Sialylated milk oligosaccharides promote microbiota-dependent growth in models of infant undernutrition. Cell 164, 859871.
Crawford, MA (1993). The role of essential fatty acids in neural development: implications for perinatal nutrition. American Journal of Clinical Nutritrion 57, 70357095.
Cryan, JF, Dinan, T (2012). Mind-altering microorganisms: the impact of the gut microbiota on brain and behaviour. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 13, 701712.
Eriksson, JG, Osmond, C, Kajantie, E, Forsén, TJ, Barker, DJ (2006). Patterns of growth among children who later develop type 2 diabetes or its risk factors. Diabetologia 49, 28532858.
Ewaschuck, JB, Diaz, H, Meddings, L, Diederichs, B, Dmytrash, A, Backer, J, Looijer-van Langen, M, Madsen, KL (2008). Secreted bioactive factors from Bifidobacterium infantis enhance epithelial cell barrier function. American Journal of Physiology Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology 295, G1025G1034.
Farquharson, J, Cockburn, F, Patrick, WA, Jamieson, EC, Logan, RW (1992). Infant cerebral cortex phospholipid fatty-acid composition and diet. Lancet 340, 810813.
Feldman, R, Weller, A, Sirota, L, Eidelman, A (2002). Skin-to-skin contact (kangaroo care) promotes self-regulation in premature infants: sleep-wake cyclicity, arousal modulation, and sustained exploration. Developmental Psychology 38, 194207.
Fukuda, S, Toh, H, Hase, K, Oshima, K, Nakanishi, Y, Yoshimura, K, Tobe, T, Clarke, JM, Topping, DL, Suzuki, T, Taylor, TD, Itoh, K, Kikuchi, J, Morita, H, Hattori, M, Ohno, H (2011). Bifidobacteria can protect from enteropathogenic infection through production of acetate. Nature 469, 543547.
Gale, CR, Martyn, CN (1996). Breastfeeding, dummy use, and adult intelligence. Lancet 347, 10721075.
Gibbs, BG, Forste, R (2014). Breastfeeding, parenting, and early cognitive development. Journal of Pediatrics 164, 487493.
Goldstein Ferber, S, Makhoul, IR (2004). The effect of skin-to-skin contact (Kangaroo Care) shortly after birth on the neurobehavioral responses of the term newborn: a randomized, controlled trial. Pediatrics 113, 858865.
Habib, R, Nyberg, L, Nilsson, LG (2007). Cognitive and non-cognitive factors contributing to the longitudinal identification of successful older adults in the Betula study. Aging, Neuropsychology and Cognition 14, 257274.
Horta, BL, Victora, CG (2013). Long-term Effects of Breastfeeding: A Systematic Review. World Health Organization: Geneva.
Huda, MN, Lewis, Z, Kalanetra, KM, Rashid, M, Ahmad, SM, Raqib, R, Qadri, F, Underwood, MA, Mills, DA, Stephensen, CB (2014). Stool microbiota and vaccine responses of infants. Pediatrics 134, e362e372.
Kajantie, E, Barker, DJP, Osmond, C, Forsén, T, Eriksson, JG (2008). Growth before 2 years of age and serum lipids 60 years later: the Helsinki Birth Cohort Study. International Journal of Epidemiology 37, 280289.
Kajantie, E, Raikkonen, K, Henriksson, M, Leskinen, JT, Forsén, T, Heinonen, K, Pesonen, AK, Osmond, C, Barker, DJ, Eriksson, JG (2012). Stroke is predicted by low visuospatial in relation to other intellectual abilities and coronary heart disease by low general intelligence. PLoS ONE 7, e46841.
Kramer, MS, Aboud, F, Mironova, E, Vanilovich, I, Platt, RW, Matush, L, Igumnov, S, Fombonne, E, Bogdanovich, N, Ducruet, T, Collet, JP, Chalmers, B, Hodnett, E, Davidovsky, S, Skugarevsky, O, Trofimovich, O, Kozlova, L, Shapiro, S, Promotion of Breastfeeding Intervention Trial (PROBIT) Study Group (2008). Breastfeeding and child cognitive development: new evidence from a large randomized trial. Archives of General Psychiatry 65, 578584.
Martin, NW, Benyamin, B, Hansell, NK, Montgomery, GW, Martin, NG, Wright, MJ, Bates, TC (2011). Cognitive function in adolescence: testing for interactions between breast-feeding and FADS2 polymorphisms. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 50, 5562.
Mortensen, EL, Michaelsen, KF, Sanders, SA, Reinisch, JM (2002). The association between duration of breastfeeding and adult intelligence. JAMA 287, 23652946.
Osmond, C, Kajantie, E, Forsén, TJ, Eriksson, JG, Barker, DJ (2007). Infant growth and stroke in adult life. The Helsinki Birth Cohort Study. Stroke 38, 264270.
Park, DC, Lautenchlager, G, Hedden, T, Davidson, NS, Smith, AD, Smith, PK (2002). Models of visuospatial and verbal memory across the adult life span. Psychology and Aging 17, 299320.
Pesonen, A-K, Eriksson, JG, Heinonen, K, Kajantie, E, Tuovinen, S, Alastalo, H, Henriksson, M, Leskinen, J, Osmond, C, Barker, DJ, Raikkonen, K (2013). Cognitive ability and decline after early life stress exposure. Neurobiology of Aging 34, 16741679.
Raikkonen, K, Forsén, T, Henriksson, M, Kajantie, E, Heinonen, K, Pesonen, AK, Leskinen, JT, Laaksonen, I, Osmond, C, Barker, DJ, Eriksson, JG (2009). Growth trajectories and intellectual abilities in young adulthood: the Helsinki Birth Cohort Study. American Journal of Epidemiology 170, 447455.
Raikkonen, K, Kajantie, E, Pesonen, AK, Heinonen, K, Alastalo, H, Leskinen, JT, Nyman, K, Henriksson, M, Lahti, J, Lahti, M, Pyhälä, R, Tuovinen, S, Osmond, C, Barker, DJ, Eriksson, JG (2013). Early life origins cognitive decline: findings in elderly men in the Helsinki birth cohort study. PLoS ONE 8, e54707.
Raikkonen, K, Lahti, M, Heinonen, K, Pesonen, A-K, Wahlbeck, K, Kajantie, E, Osmond, C, Barker, DJP, Eriksson, JG (2011). Risk of severe mental disorders in adults separated temporarily from their parents in childhood: the Helsinki birth cohort study. Journal of Psychiatric Research 45, 332338.
Rantalainen, V, Lahti, J, Henriksson, M, Kajantie, E, Tienari, P, Eriksson, JG, Raikkonen, K (2016). APOE and aging-related cognitive change in a longitudinal cohort of men. Neurobiology of Aging 44, 151158.
Raven, J (2000). The Raven's progressive matrices: change and stability over culture and time. Cognitive Psychology 41, 148.
Richards, M, Hardy, R, Wadsworth, MEJ (2002). Long-term effects of breast-feeding in a national birth cohort: educational attainment and midlife cognitive function. Public Health Nutrition 5, 631635.
Stern, Y (2009). Cognitive reserve. Neuropsychologia 47, 20152028.
Tiihonen, J, Haukka, J, Henriksson, M, Cannon, M, Kieseppä, T, Laaksonen, I, Sinivuo, J, Lönnqvist, J (2005). Premorbid intellectual functioning in bipolar disorder and schizophrenia: results from a cohort study of male conscripts. American Journal of Psychiatry 162, 19041910.
Van Dijk, KRA, Van Gerven, PWM, Van Boxtel, MPJ, Van der Elst, W, Jones, J (2008). No protective effects of education during normal cognitive aging: results from the 6-year follow-up of the Maastricht Aging Study. Psychology and Aging 23, 119130.
Victora, CG, Horta, BL, de Mola, CL, Quevedo, L, Pinheiro, RT, Gigante, DP, Gonçalves, H, Barros, F (2015). Association between breastfeeding and intelligence, educational attainment, and income at 30 years of age: a prospective birth cohort study from Brazil. Lancet Global Health 3, e199e205.
Walfisch, A, Sermer, C, Cressman, A, Koren, G (2013). Breast milk and cognitive development – the role of confounders: a systematic review. BMJ Open 3, e003259.
Wang, B, Brand-Miller, J, McVeagh, P, Petosz, P (2001). Concentration and distribution of sialic acid in human milk and infant formulas. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 74, 510515.
Wigg, NR, Tong, S, McMichael, AJ, Baghurst, PA, Vimpani, G, Roberts, R (1998). Does breastfeeding at six months predict cognitive development? Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health 22, 232236.

Keywords

Type Description Title
WORD
Supplementary materials

Rantalainen et al supplementary material
Table S1

 Word (19 KB)
19 KB
WORD
Supplementary materials

Rantalainen et al supplementary material
Table S2

 Word (15 KB)
15 KB

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed