Infants Fed Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Enriched Formula Develop Better Visual Acuity Throughout First Year Of Life
Researchers conducted a randomized, double-blind, controlled clinical trial to evaluate the effect of the polyunsaturated fatty acids Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) and Arachidonic Acid (AA) on nervous system development in 103 term infants. These infants were fed either standard formula or an enriched formula containing 0.36% DHA and 0.72% AA for one-year. These enriched formula DHA/AA levels reflect the natural levels found in breast milk of healthy adult women. The effects of these two formulas were compared based upon their influence on nervous system development as measured by visual acuity tests.
Visual acuity was significantly better in the supplemented group than the control group at ages 6, 17, 26 and 52 weeks. Stereoacuity (a measure of visual cortex function) was significantly better in the supplemented group at age 17 weeks, but not at 30 weeks. Red blood cell DHA levels were more than double that of the control group by age 17 weeks, and more than triple by 39 weeks. Physical growth and development was equal in both groups and the two diets were well tolerated.
The differences between study groups were subtle, but statistically significant. The authors note that even subtle differences in visual function may provide an important clue to the nutritional requirements of the central nervous system. Traditional infant formulas may not provide adequate amounts of the polyunsaturated fatty acids DHA and AA, which are needed for optimal nervous system development in infants.
Birch E., et al "Visual Maturation of Term Infants Fed Long-Chain PUFA Supplemented or Control Formula for 12 Months," Am J Clin Nutr, 2005; 81: 871-9.