Fatty-acid formula favourable

Scientists have found that infants who were fed formula enriched with long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA) from birth to 12 months scored significantly better than a control group on several measures of intelligence conducted between the ages of three and six years.

Specifically, the children showed accelerated development on detailed tasks involving pattern discrimination, rule-learning and inhibition between the ages of three and five, as well as performing better on two widely-used standardised tests of intelligence: the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test at age five and the Weschler Primary Preschool Scales of Intelligence at age six.

“These results support the contention that studies of nutrition and cognition should include more comprehensive and sensitive assessments that are administered multiple times through early childhood,” said John Colombo, study director and professor of psychology at the University of Kansas.

The results of LCPUFA supplementation studies have been mixed according to Colombo, a neuroscientist who specialises in the measurement of early neurocognitive development, but many of those studies have relied mainly on children’s performance on the Bayley Scales of Infant Development at 18 months.

In the randomised, double-blind study, 81 infants were fed one of four formulas from birth to 12 months; three with varying levels of two LCPUFAs (DHA and ARA) and one formula with no LCPUFA. Beginning at 18 months, the children were tested every six months until six years of age on age-appropriate standardised and specific cognitive tests.

At 18 months, the children did not perform any better on standardised tests of performance and intelligence, but by age three study directors Colombo, Susan E. Carlson, A. J. Rice, began to see significant differences in the performance of children who were fed the enriched formulas on finer-grained, laboratory-based measures of several aspects of cognitive function.

DHA or docosahexaenoic acid is an essential long-chain fatty acid that affects brain and eye development, and babies derive it from their mothers before birth and up to age two.
The study was published ahead of print in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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