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Fat in Formula for Brainier Babies?

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Cognitive Studies continued...

Tsetsis says formula companies will probably not put the fatty acids in all of their products. Instead, they will offer formulas with and without them until they determine consumer demand.

"Five years ago you wouldn't find too many parents, and not even many doctors, who knew about DHA and AA," says nutritionist Barbara Levine, PhD, an associate professor of medicine at New York City's Rockefeller University. "Now it has been in the press, and people are becoming more aware of it. And the recent studies have been very favorable."

In a widely-cited recent study, researchers from Dallas' Retina Foundation of the Southwest, reported that babies fed infant formula enriched with DHA and AA were cognitively advanced when compared with babies who received commercially available formulas without the fatty acids.

Babies consuming enriched or standard formulas from birth to four months of age, underwent standardized tests at 18 months of age to gauge mental and physical development. The babies who drank enriched formulas scored seven points higher on the mental development index than those receiving non-enriched formulas. Their average score of 105 was virtually identical to a group of babies who had been breastfed from birth.

The children will be retested when they turn 4, and again when they turn 9, to determine if the advantage in early brain development can be seen later on.

In a similar study , published three years ago in The Lancet, infants given formula with or without DHA and AA for four months were assessed at 10 months of age. Researchers from the University of Dundee, Scotland, found that infants who received the enriched formulas were significantly more developed in terms of problem-solving ability.

Both of these investigations included a small number of infants -- 44 in the U.K. and 56 in the Dallas study -- and both involved term infants. Findings reported last August, from the largest study to date involving both pre-term and term infants, were less than conclusive.

Toronto researchers compared brain and visual development in more than 400 premature and 239 term infants fed either DHA and AA-fortified or standard formulas for a year. They found that premature infants fed the fatty-acid enriched formula had advanced brain and visual development compared with pre-term infants fed standard formulas. The developmental advantage was not seen in the full-term infants.

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