Breast-fed babies have healthier immune systems, score higher on I.Q. tests and may be less prone to obesity than other babies.
Now new research reveals another possible difference in breast-fed babies: They may have longer telomeres.
Telomeres are stretches of DNA that cap the ends of chromosomes and protect the genes from damage. They’re often compared to the plastic tips at the end of shoelaces that prevent laces from unraveling. Telomeres shorten as cells divide and as people age, and shorter telomeres in adulthood are associated with chronic diseases like diabetes. Some studies have linked longer telomeres to longevity.