Science brief: New study suggests the pill could make you smarter

If I were a contestant on Family Feud and the category was “things you can eat to become smarter,” here’s what I’d say: spinach, salmon, avocados and maybe fish oil supplements. One thing that I would never think of is hormonal birth control, but according to a recent study, that would be a solid answer.
Earlier this month, a team of researchers published an article in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society outlining how certain events related to sex hormones correlated with cognition in postmenoposal women. One of several findings published in the study is the connection between hormonal birth control and brain function.

According to the study, women who used the pill for at least a decade during their youth scored higher on cognitive tests than those who did not.

In addition, women who had their first period at an earlier age, who had children later in life, and who had long reproductive periods all scored well on the cognitive tests.

The researchers interviewed 850 post-menopausal women for the study, which included surveys about the womens’ reproductive backgrounds and cognitive tests.

While there was a positive correlation between strong late-in-life cognition skills and oral birth control, the researchers can’t say why such a correlation exists or whether there’s actually causation in addition to the correlation.

Below are a series of charts based on data from the study. For the original data set, follow the link and refer to data table 1

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