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Baby Formula Additives May Improve Mental Function

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Only a long-term study that follows these children until they are 6 or 7 will answer the question of whether adding these fatty acids to formulas is beneficial, Heird says.

Ross Products, which funded both studies and manufactures Similac baby formula, has followed infants as long as three years and has not detected any IQ differences between those who received DHA and AA and those who did not, says Russell Merritt, MD, PhD, the company's medical director in pediatric nutrition. The company may continue to follow them longer if enough children stay enrolled in the study, Merritt tells WebMD.

Martek Biosciences, which manufactures the fatty acids and currently sells them to the majority of baby formula manufacturers, recently received notice from the FDA that they could safely add these ingredients to infant formulas in the U.S.

The fatty acids are already available in baby formulas in virtually every other country except for the U.S. and Canada. But it could be a while before formulas containing the fatty acids are available here.

An FDA source who requested anonymity tells WebMD that the approval is only for Martek and only for term infants, which seem to be the least likely to benefit from the fatty acids.

Other companies wishing to incorporate the ingredients into their baby formulas would have to seek FDA approval and then monitor the babies to make sure they are developing in a normal manner, the source says.

Ross is considering adding the ingredients to its formulas, Merritt tells WebMD. Two other top formula manufacturers, Mead Johnson, which makes the Enfamil line of formulas, and Carnation, tell WebMD that they have not yet made a decision in that regard.

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