KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI. It is well-established that human infants require an adequate supply of omega-3 and omega-6 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids for optimal growth and neural development. There is evidence that the need for omega-3 acids, particularly docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), is especially pronounced among pre-term infants. It has been suggested that these infants lack the ability to synthesize DHA from alpha-linolenic acid in sufficient amounts to ensure an adequate supply to the brain and retina. Several studies have shown that pre-term infants fed a formula with added DHA developed better visual acuity and retinal response to light and scored higher when evaluated for mental development. In term infants some studies, but not all, have found higher visual acuity and better problem-solving ability in infants fed a DHA-containing formula.
Dr. S.E. Carlson of the University of Missouri supports the idea of adding DHA to infant formulas, but cautions that his fortification should be balanced with an appropriate addition of long-chain omega-6 acids (arachidonic acid) in order to more closely approximate the composition of mother’s milk.
Carlson, S.E. Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids and development of human infants. Acta Paediatr Suppl, No. 430, 1999, pp. 72-7