9.16.09 Study: Formula with fatty acid helps infant brain power, but breastfeeding critics cite marketing move
Babies fed formula with the omega-3 fatty acid DHA appear to have higher cognitive skills than infants on nonfortified formula, the Los Angeles Times reports. In response, breastfeeding experts are emphasizing that they will continue to advocate for a more natural source of DHA: breast milk.
The Texas study, appearing in the journal Child Development, tested three groups of formula-fed babies (one group since birth, the second group was weaned after six weeks of breast milk, the third group weaned at 6 months) at 9 months old. The formula was distributed to the parents, who were unaware of which babies got the fortified or non-DHA version. ABC News reports that Enfamil provided the formula used in the study, which some doctors say is a marketing ploy.
In the first two groups, those who got DHA-enriched formula had significantly higher scores on the problem-solving tests compared with their counterparts who were fed regular formula. Fifty-one percent of the babies who were on fortified formula from Day One completed all of the tests vs. 29 percent who were given non-DHA formula.
Scientists say they've long considered DHA as a very important nutrient for infants' cognitive development because DHA is found in high concentrations in the human brain and retina of the eyes. Dietary sources include oily fishes, eggs and meat.
Baby formula has come a long way in terms of nutrition and safety. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration raised the safety threshold for the amount of chemicals allowed in the manufacturing of formula.
For more than 15 years, Fit Pregnancy has been touting "Breast is still best!" But for some women, we understand that formula is the answer for many reasons, so here's some tips on how to keep it safe.
Maria Vega is Fit Pregnancy magazine's copy editor.