Breast-fed children have a slight cognitive development advantage over both soy-based and milk-based formula-fed infants, but formula-fed children are within normal limits on standardized tests, according to results of a recently published study.
Aline Andres, PhD, and colleagues from the Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center and the departments of pediatrics, and physiology and biophysics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences at Little Rock examined 391 healthy infants who were fed either breast milk (n=131); milk-based formula (n=131); or soy-based formula (n=129) to evaluate difference in cognitive development. Infant development was evaluated at 3, 6, 9 and 12 months of age using the Bayley Scales of Infant Development and the Preschool Language Scale-3. The researchers used mixed effects models and accounted for socioeconomic status, mother’s age and IQ, gestational age, gender, birth weight, head circumference, race, age and diet history.
Andes and colleagues noted no difference between the milk-based and soy-based formula groups, but they said breast-fed infants scored slightly higher on the Mental Developmental Index than formula-fed infants at 6 and 12 months of age, had higher Psychomotor Development Index scores than soy-based formula-fed infants, and slightly higher Preschool Language Scale-3 scores at 3 and 6 months of age compared with milk-based formula-fed infants.
“These results are consistent with a large body of literature demonstrating advantages of breast-feeding on cognitive function later in life,” the researchers concluded. “However, it is important to point out that developmental scores of all three diets groups were within the standardized norms, and differences between breast-fed infants and formula-fed effects were quite small in magnitude and thus difficult to interpret in terms of potential clinical relevance.”
Disclosure: The study was supported by USDA Agriculture Research Service CRIS grants. Dr. Andres reports no relevant financial disclosures.