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Fatty Acids and Brain and Heart Health

Fatty Acids in Formula Benefit Baby’s Brain and Heart
by Rallie McAllister, MD, MPH

With dozens of types of infant formula on the market, choosing the best one for your baby can be a challenge. The results of a recent study* might just make the decision a little easier. Researchers at the University of Kansas suggest that infant formulas that are fortified with long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA), such as DHA and ARA, are good for your baby’s developing brain and heart.

In the study, the moms of 122 full-term infants were asked to feed their babies one of four formulas from birth to 12 months. Three of the infant formulas had varying levels of the long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, and one formula had no LCPUFA.

The scientists evaluated the babies at four, six and nine months of age. By simultaneously measuring the heart rate and visual attentiveness of the babies who were shown photos of adult human faces, the researchers found that the infants who were fed the fortified formula were more cognitively advanced and their heart rates were lower than infants who were fed formula without the long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. Even the formula with the lowest level of LCPUFA (0.3 percent) was found to produce these benefits. The findings add to a growing body of evidence that long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids positively affect the brain and behavioral development in infants. The Amen Clinics provide more information on supporting a healthy brain.

*John Colombo, Susan E. Carlson, Carol L. Cheatham, Kathleen M. Fitzgerald-Gustafson, Amy Kepler, Tasha Doty. Long Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Supplementation in Infancy Reduces Heart Rate and Positively Affects Distribution of Attention. Pediatric Research, 2011; DOI: 10.1203/PDR.0b013e31822a59f5.

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