Fatty acids aid infants' visual acuity

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Milk, Infant, Red blood cell

Supplementing infant formula with long-chain polyunsaturated fatty
acid (LCP) throughout the first year of life may help babies see
more clearly, according to scientists at the Retina Foundation of
the Southwest in Dallas, Texas.

The five-strong research team decided to carry out a study to assess the effects of LCP supplementation on visual maturation of term infants after earlier studies delivered inconsistent results.

In a double-masked, randomized, controlled clinical trial, 103 5-day-old, term infants were assigned to one of two groups. One group was fed formula containing neither docosahexaenioc acid (DHA) nor arachidonic acid (AHA) and the other was fed formula supplemented with 0.36 percent DHA and 0.72 percent ARA.

The quantities of DHA and ARA for the supplemented group was determined according to amounts typically found in human breast milk.

The infants' visual acuity was measured at 6-, 17-, 26- and 52-weeks by using visual sweep evoked potential (VEP) acuity.

At all four ages the VEP of the infants receiving the supplemented formula was "significantly better"​ than those in the control group.

In the earlier studies showing no benefit from LCP supplementation, the researchers suggest that the results may have been due to the amount of LCP used, functional outcomes and sample size.

The researchers also noted that the total red blood cell lipid composition for the supplemented group at 17 weeks was double that of the control group - and triple at 39-weeks.

The DHA and ARA infant formula market is dominated by Martek Biosciences, which currently holds 75 percent share and aims to be in the upper-90s by the end of 2005. It counts Mead Johnson, Wyeth, Abbott Laboratories and Nestle amongst the licensees of its algae-derived ingredient.

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