Health experts have long extolled to new mothers the virtues of breastfeeding their babies, knowing it increases the immunity that helps protect children against many kinds of infections and disease. Now latest research proves it does far more:
* It can increase IQ by seven points. According to a study carried out on more than 1,000 New Zealand babies and another on more than 2,000 British twins, in nine out of ten cases the babies inherited the FADS2 gene, which is important to how fatty acids are processed. Long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids accumulate in the brain following birth, helping with the growth of nerve fibres and the transmission of nerve messages.
* An American study showed that of almost 1,000 adults taking part, those who were breastfed were more than 50 per cent more likely to have higher levels of HDL 'good' cholesterol and lower BMI (body mass index) than those who had not been breastfed.
* And because breast milk contains oxytocin and prolactin, which have an effect on the brain's reward centre, they help babies feel more secure. So breast continues to be best.