Infants fed formula containing long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids after weaning showed better maturation of cortical function than infants fed formula without supplementation.
In the first six weeks of life, infants receive a dietary supply of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in breast milk. Dr Eileen Birch and colleagues set out to study whether giving supplements of these fatty acids after weaning influenced brain development any further. Dr Birch is based at the Retina Foundation of the Southwest, Dallas, Texas, United States.
They looked at dietary supply of long-chain fatty acids and the visual cortex development during the first six weeks of life and compared this with development of the visual cortex and dietary supply in weeks seven to 52. The study was a randomized controlled trial of supplements of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid in 65 healthy term infants who were weaned from breast-feeding at six weeks of age.
Said Dr Birch, "Despite a dietary supply of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPs) from breast milk during the first six weeks of life, infants who were weaned to formula that did not provide long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids had significantly poorer visual acuity at 17, 26, and 52 weeks of age and significantly poorer steroacuity at 17 weeks of age than did infants who were weaned to LCP-supplemented formula." She added that better acuity and steroacuity at 17 weeks was correlated with higher concentrations of docosahexaenoic acid in plasma. Better acuity at 52 weeks was correlated with higher concentrations of docosahexaenoic acid in plasma and red blood cells.