DHA and Eye Health: Study Supports Omega-3 in Formula
Posted Feb 24 2010 8:47am
By Colleen Hurley, RD, Certified Kid’s Nutrition Specialist
Great strides have been taken in the recent years to attempt to provide an infant formula that replicates the concentrations of nutrients found in breast milk. A newer addition to infant formula is omega-3 fatty acids , a rich source of DHA, a nutrient proven in recent studies to enhance fetal brain development and future cognitive skills. A study out this month found yet another reason for DHA enrichment and that is eye health.
Infant formulas are a touchy subject and watchdog groups keep a keen eye on marketing strategies as some companies compare their infant formula to breast milk. Some mothers cannot breastfeed for either health or personal reasons but that does not mean they too don’t want their babies to have the best that they can provide.
Recently, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) examined and brought new regulations for DHA eye and brain health claims for infants stating that 100mg of DHA daily is appropriate for 7-24 month olds as well as 200mg per day for expecting and lactating women. DHA, or docosohexaenoic acid, is an omega-3 fatty acid found in high levels in fish oils but nutrient analysis have also found breast milk to contain significant amounts as well.
Published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the study examined 244 formula fed infants between 1 and 9 days of age born in Dallas and Kansas. The babies were assigned to 1 of 4 groups; one being fed a control formula without DHA as well as 3 other formulas with various amounts of DHA. At 12 months of age, the infants’ clarity of vision was measured only to find the infants fed the DHA fortified formula had better vision than the control group.
There was also no difference noted in the varying amounts of DHA supplemented, from .64% to .96%, and researchers note no adverse affects were seen either. With respect to long term benefits, the study authors felt more research is needed. The EFSA recently backed these DHA related claims: “DHA intake can contribute to normal development of the eye of the fetus, infant and young children”, and “DHA intake can contribute to the visual development of the infant”. Proper maternal and infant nutrition is a serious matter and should be discussed with a healthcare provider. Please discuss any supplements with your physician before taking or giving to your child.