Fortified Formula Boosts Infant Development
Accelerated Vision, Brain Development Reported
Babies in Birch's study were fed formula with 0.36% DHA and 0.72% ARA, which she says is similar to the amount that most breastfed infants get. She recommends that parents look for supplemented formulas with the highest levels of the fatty acids.
The second study, published in the April issue of The Journal of Pediatrics, compared outcomes among preterm infants fed fortified and nonfortified baby formulas.
Half of the fortified-formula infants were given a commercially available formula in which DHA/ARA was derived from a plant source -- algae. The others drank formulas with DHA/ARA derived from fish oil.
All of the fortified formulas now on the market used the algae-derived fatty acid.
The babies fed formula with algae-derived fatty acids gained weight quicker than the babies fed formula with fish oil-derived fatty acids up to about age 1. Their growth was found to be similar to that of full-term infants who were breastfed.
Both supplemented formula types were also associated with more rapid brain and motor development.
Though both new studies show benefits for babies fed fortified baby formulas during the first year of life, it is not yet clear if those benefits are still seen in older children. Oregon Health and Sciences University nutrition professor William E. Connor, MD, says there is some evidence that the benefits are long lasting.
"Obviously, we need more studies that follow these children longer," he tells WebMD. "But it does seem that these formulas that mimic the composition of breast milk as closely as possible do benefit children long term."