Science and Medicine

Scans Show Early Brain Growth in Breastfed Babies

“We’re finding the difference (in white matter growth) is on the order of 20 to 30 percent, comparing the breastfed and the non-breastfed kids.”

Babies who are breastfed show signs of early brain development, particularly in regions associated with language, emotional function, and cognition.

Researchers used specialized, baby-friendly magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to look at the brain growth in a sample of children under the age of 4 years. By age 2, babies who had been breastfed exclusively for at least three months had enhanced development compared to children who were fed formula exclusively or who were fed a combination of formula and breastmilk.

This isn’t the first study to suggest that breastfeeding aids babies’ brain development. Behavioral studies have previously associated breastfeeding with better cognitive outcomes in older adolescents and adults.

But this is the first imaging study that looked for differences associated with breastfeeding in the brains of very young and healthy children, says Sean Deoni, assistant professor of engineering at Brown University.

“We wanted to see how early these changes in brain development actually occur,” Deoni said. “We show that they’re there almost right off the bat.”

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Parent Lifespan Tied to Children’s Cancer Risk

“Despite being likely to share the same environment and lifestyle in their married lives, spouses had no health benefit from their parents-in-law reaching a ripe old age.”

The children of parents who live to a ripe old age are more likely to live longer themselves and are 25 percent less likely to get cancer, research shows.

For a new study, scientists compared the children of long-lived parents to children whose parents survived to average ages for their generation.

“The unique detailed longitudinal data available in the HRS (Health and Retirement Study) allowed us to quantify the possible health benefits of having healthy and long-lived parents,” said Kenneth Langa, professor of internal medicine, gerontology, and health management and policy at the University of Michigan.

“The considerable benefits that we found in our study—both in terms of decreased cancer risk and longer lifespan—need to be followed up and confirmed in additional studies with more detailed genetic information so we can better pinpoint the potential links between healthy long-lived parents and their healthy long-lived kids.”

For the study, long-lived mothers were classified as those who survived past 91 years old, as compared to those who reached average age spans of 77 to 91 years. Long-lived fathers lived past 87 years old, compared with the average of 65 to 87 years.

Read more: Parent Lifespan Tied to Children’s Cancer Risk

   

Do Men’s and Women’s Hearts Burn Fuel Differently?

“Because the heart is the body’s number-one consumer of fat, when it starts using fat differently, there are consequences throughout the entire body,”

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine will study gender differences in how the heart uses and stores fat—its main energy source—and how changes in fat metabolism play a role in heart disease, under a new $2 million, 4-year grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

When stressed, the heart changes how it uses fuel for energy. These changes may play a major role in the development of heart disease and are different in men and women, says E. Douglas Lewandowski, director of the UIC Center for Cardiovascular Research. The changes occur long before any symptoms, he said, and may be key to early diagnosis and treatment.

Lewandowski, who is principal investigator on the grant, uses imaging techniques he developed to see fat molecules and the rate at which they are being burned in beating hearts. In healthy hearts, the balance between using fat for energy and storing it in tiny droplets within the cells is in a dynamic equilibrium.

When a female heart is stressed, such as through chronic disease like hypertension, it becomes much less efficient at metabolizing fat, Lewandowski says. When a male heart is stressed, it starts using more sugar as fuel. These changes in the heart can also affect how fat is stored and used in other parts of the body.

Read more: Do Men’s and Women’s Hearts Burn Fuel Differently?

   

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