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Finding the Magic Formula: Should Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids be Used to Supplement Infant Formula?

Abstract

NOTEWORTHY NUTRITION PAPERS- Vol. 5- No. 1 - 2002 Finding the Magic Formula: Should Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids be Used to Supplement Infant Formula? By Mailan Cao ABSTRACT It is well established that infants who are breast-fed in their first year benefit from higher scores on standardized tests of neural development than infants who are fed with formula. Some suspect that the reason for this increased mental function in breast-fed infants is that, unlike formula, breast milk contains the fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (AA), which are known to be major building blocks of neural tissue in the brain and the retina. This paper reviews the current scientific evidence on the role of DHA and AA in infant nutrition and explores the implications of this knowledge for policy changes. Studies of infants fed formula supplemented with DHA and AA showed increased plasma levels of DHA and AA and higher visual function than infants fed unsupplemented formulas. The research on the effects of supplemented DHA and AA on cognitive/behavioral development, however, has been inconclusive. The information presented here is especially pertinent to parents and pediatricians in light of the recent announcement by several leading U.S. manufacturers of infant formula of the development of a new line of infant formula that will contain these two new added ingredients, DHA and AA, and that will be available to consumers within the next few months.

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